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The Governor’s Response to SAFE

Members of SAFE look to the Governor as the Chief Executive of the State of Illinois. He is the ultimate protector of the people of Illinois. His office is where the buck stops in this effort. We also believe that the Governor is concerned about the dangers of fracking and that he wants to do the right thing. Therefore, we implore the Governor to prevent fracking in Southern Illinois until we can be assured that the oil and gas industry has the technology in place to protect our air, water, land, animals, and people against the flood of toxins that will surround us when drilling begins.

This letter recounts the interaction between SAFE and the Governor’s office to date. On June 3, 2012, SAFE sent the Governor an open letter requesting that he ban the issuance of fracking permits by the Illinois Department of Natural Resources, based on the rationale that the Governor directly oversees this agency. (Click SAFE letter to Governor Quinn to review).

The letter lists in great detail our reasons for requesting a ban on the issuance of permits. These reasons included a 60-year history of vertical fracking violations by the oil and gas industry in Illinois that were largely ignored by the government. More importantly, we pointed out that the capacity of the new horizontal, high-volume, high-pressure fracturing would cause significantly more damage to human health and the environment. As an example, we called attention to the fact that the oil and gas industry has no safe method to store the hundreds of millions of gallons of highly toxic water once it is regurgitated back to the surface after being used for fracking. We further cited the specious and dishonest arguments of the oil and gas industry in their promotion of fracking to local farmers, as well as the threats and pressures put upon local landowners.

For the above reasons, we entreated Governor Quinn to ban the issuance of IDNR permits for horizontal fracking unless and until the State of Illinois has the proper regulations and monitoring systems in place with respect to (a) air pollution, (b) water pollution, (c) pollution of the soil and agriculture land, (d) depletion of the water supply, (e) harm to the health and safety of the hydrofracking workforce, and (f) degradation of public roads and property.

We also requested that the Governor protect our constitutional rights as citizens of Illinois. Particularly we cited the government’s responsibility to maintain a healthful environment for the benefit of this and future generations and the right of each person to a healthful environment. As citizens of Illinois we believe that all laws and regulations should be consistent with our Constitution because it represents the vision of the people of Illinois as citizens and voters in the state.

In addition to sending the letter to the Governor, we sent the letter to every state legislator, other government employees, and each county board chairperson, and we published it online for all the people of Southern Illinois to build support against fracking and give the Governor a larger constituency for action. We asked people to sign the letter to ban fracking permits. After more than two months, we have not heard one word from the Governor.

On July 30th, 2012, members of SAFE met with the Governor’s Deputy Chief of Staff in Chicago. The Director of the Illinois Department of Natural Resources was also present by phone. We discussed the fact that the Governor had recently been to southern Illinois because of the drought and that it was extremely dangerous to allow fracking operations to destroy millions of gallons of our clean water supply with each horizontal fracking. (A single horizontal frack requires three to five million gallons of water, and a well can be fracked up to 18 times.) We also discussed the uselessness of preparing new regulations against fracking if the IDNR did not have the workforce to monitor and enforce industry violations of regulations. In parting, SAFE gave the Governor’s representative a Memorandum of Law prepared by SAFE attorneys which indicated that the Governor HAD the authority by law to ban the issuance of permits. (Click The authority of Governor to ban issue of permitsto see a copy).

On August 6th, 2012, SAFE wrote an email to the Governor’s Deputy Chief of Staff and asked about the Governor’s response to our Memorandum of Law. We received a brief email in return that simply stated: “IEPA has done some initial analysis and our attorneys are looking at this as well. I think there is some disagreement after initial analysis.”

SAFE replied that we understand that there is room for different interpretations and that we would appreciate knowing how the IEPA came to the conclusion that the Governor does not have the authority to make a determination regarding permits. We asked to be kept in the loop on the Governor’s office research on fracking. As of this date, we have not heard a word back from the Governor’s office.

Now, SAFE has produced a second Memorandum of Law that reinforces our first memorandum concerning the Governor’s authority to ban the issuance of fracking permits by the IDNR. (Click here to read). It states that because the horizontal, high-volume, high-pressure fracking method is a new technology bringing significant new risks that do not occur in vertical fracking, the State does not presently have regulations on the books that apply to it. Thus, given the widespread destructive power of horizontal fracking, the Governor, to protect the health and environment of southern Illinois, should halt the issue of permits until something can be done to regulate and monitor fracking operations, punish violations of the regulations, and require remediation.

SAFE wants the people of Illinois to know that we are doing everything in our power to engage State government in the protection of people from fracking. We are active at the county level and at the state level with the legislature and the Governor’s office. We remain hopeful that the Governor hears the cry of the people and will take action to protect us.

SAFE is a grassroots effort of volunteers and we are funded by our own money. We stand with the people of Southern Illinois in all efforts to protect the health and well-being of our neighbors and to protect our beautiful environment and keep it safe for farming, tourism and other sustainable economic practices.

Please sign on to our Open Letter to the Governor (click here) and request his immediate attention to this urgent matter.

Sincerely,

SAFE Legal Team

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