Last week a fracking bill came out of the Illinois General Assembly that got a lot of attention. This week I got a look at a video that reminds me why it was so important for so many people and why we have devoted so much energy to this process.
It’s footage from an NRDC staff visit to western Pennsylvania where my colleagues heard the difficult stories of victims of fracking’s impacts on their water, property values, health and overall quality of life. In Illinois, we need to learn the hard lessons from states that did not have strong protections in place before the oil and gas companies moved in. Nobody wants to see a repeat of the unfortunate experiences like these:
The state would be wise to hold off on moving forward with fracking altogether until it has conducted a full analysis of the health risks, and has in place the legal structures and standards to better protect Illinoisans from them. But the reality is that the process is moving forward quickly. Despite the fact that no rules to govern fracking are on the books right now, a rush to lease drilling rights is already raging in portions of the state. So, with rules that would govern fracking currently speeding through the state legislature, NRDC, Sierra Club, Faith in Place, IEC, ELPC, and a bevy of other groups felt it was important to jump in to ensure that protections will be as strong as possible to protect communities. It was essential to use this opportunity as a last line of defense to take what immediate action we could to protect our communities, environment and economy.
While the bill that was negotiated is not perfect, it stands as the strongest fracking protections that we have seen to date, offering critical safeguards that do not otherwise exist yet, including strong well construction standards, provisions to allow citizen suits, important chemical disclosure rules and limits on air pollution impacts. These can provide a solid start for us to build on.
But this bill does not have all the requirements that NRDC thinks are needed to best protect the public from the harms of oil and gas activities. Legislators need to do more work over time to address remaining shortfalls in Illinois’ regulatory system. Citizens deserve stronger protections for their communities and the environment before fracking moves forward in Illinois.
As part of NRDC’s ongoing work to prevent oil and gas companies from running roughshod across communities nationwide, we will heed the warnings of our neighbors in Pennsylvania by continuing to fight for sufficient safeguards. That work is not done, but the new bill is a good start