By Dave Dahl
SPRINGFIELD - An old-fashioned protest rally took over the Capitol rotunda in Springfield Tuesday afternoon.
The dozens gathered to oppose a bill that would regulate hydraulic fracturing, or “fracking,” the process of injecting chemicals into the earth to force out oil and gas.
The rally comes a few weeks after a bi-partisan announcement of the bill, which purported to have the support of such groups as the Sierra Club and the Natural Resources Defense Council, as well as the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency and the Illinois Department of Natural Resources, and business groups.
Annette McMichael of Southern Illinoisans against Fracturing Our Environment (SAFE) says groups such as hers did not have a seat at the table when that bill was being discussed. “Southern Illinois is not a playground for the oil and gas industry,” she said.
“Illinois Department of Natural Resources rubber-stamps permit applications,” said Penni Livingston, a lawyer who works with SAFE. “They are regularly (and) consistently illegal, and they rubber-stamp the permits. They give ‘em out. They don’t enforce the permits. They do not enforce the law.”
SAFE is backing a moratorium, which has been written in bill form but whose sponsors were absent from the rally.
Representatives of the pro-fracking coalition issued a statement, of which this is part: “This legislation reduces our reliance on foreign oil and low-cost sources of energy for Illinois business and residents for many years to come."
Grayville Mayor and Southern Illinois Mayors Association president Joe Bisch; Herrin Mayor Vic Ritter; Marion Mayor Robert Butler; Mount Vernon Mayor Mary Jane Chesley; McLeansboro Mayor Dick Deitz; West Frankfort Mayor Tom Jordan, and Zeigler Mayor Dennis Mitchell have also issued a statement in favor of the fracking legislation.