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Streamlining (i.e. Ramrodding) the Fracking Permit

Observing the August 2nd Public Hearing in Enfield that the Illinois Department of Natural Resources arranged on behalf of Woolsey’s fracking permit application, it is difficult not to conclude that Judge Daniel Schuering, who presided over the hearing, and IDNR counsel Andrew Suthard are more focused on streamlining the application process than on actually listening to the public.  During the hearing, Woolsey representatives presented absolutely no arguments for their case, and with Judge Schuering presiding, they didn’t really need to.  Originally, the judge had rejected a request by Mrs. Mona Weaver to speak, but at the hearing he did allow her to explain why she believed she should be heard.  His treatment of her was quite patronizing and dismissive, and served to imply that her proximity to the proposed fracking site was further than it actually is.  Mrs. Weaver did say that her house was six miles from the site “as the crow flies”, but on the next day she provided supplemental information that included a map showing several of her property lines to be significantly closer.  Her submittal also detailed her concerns about the poisoning of wildlife and the potential for the fracking well to extract oil from under her own property.  Woosley has requested that her submittal be rejected, and curiously, IDNR – ostensibly behaving as Woolsey’s lawyer – supports their request.

Next, Judge Schuering allowed testimony from Barbara McKasson, and then Karen Fiorino.  Their presentations and submittals highlighted how Woolsey’s application inadequately addresses the need to protect the public from hazards such as induced earthquakes, pollution from flowback water, and contamination from radioactive waste.  And thanks to the efforts of their counsels, Vito Mastrangelo and Jacob Smallhorn, an extensive NRDC report that details these and many other application deficiencies was also accepted into evidence.  (Astonishingly, IDNR’s June 5th application deficiency letter to Woolsey wasn’t a part of the original evidence, though it was later admitted during the hearing.)  And while both Barb and Karen illustrated how their concerns were based on the latest scientific knowledge and research, the judge OBSESSIVELY stressed and enunciated to them that they were not in fact technical experts on the matter.  One might think that more effort would be spent on illuminating the science regarding the hazards of fracking, instead of haranguing and bullying witnesses who present these legitimate concerns, but apparently the judge and IDNR felt otherwise.

Additionally troubling is the fact that IDNR has aligned with Woolsey in objecting to the admission into evidence of the submitted testimony of Mr. James Walker, who happens to live three miles from the proposed fracking site, and who was unable to obtain time off from work to attend this hearing.  It is to be expected that Woolsey would want Mr. Walker silenced, but we would expect an agency constitutionally obligated to protect our “right to a healthful environment” to put a more honest effort into hearing his concerns, and not to behave as if they were Woolsey’s lawyers and limit the voices that they hear to people who have the privilege and flexibly in their schedules to appear at IDNR’s convenience and whim.

And now even at this late date, IDNR is asking Woolsey for even more information and details regarding the “handling of fracturing fluids, containment measures, traffic management, the effect on fresh water, water source management and operations details“.  But while IDNR evaluates yet more of Woolsey’s submittals, they are in effect shutting out all public review of this new information.  So because of deficiency after deficiency, the people of Illinois have never been given the opportunity to comment – in writing or in public forum – on information contained in a final, fully completed fracking application.  Whose interests is IDNR actually serving!

Respectfully submitted by Mark Coats

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