Last week, Governor Quinn’s quiet brunch at the State Fair was disrupted by a group of almost 100 protestors demanding that Quinn take action against weak regulation concerning hydraulic fracturing, or fracking.
With signs, organized chants and a 15-foot tall puppet of Quinn, the activists made quite a scene at the Crowne Plaza Hotel before being escorted off the premises by police.
Hydraulic fracturing is a method used to extract natural gas locked below rock formations by injecting in a high-pressure fluid, often mixed with sand and a chemical cocktail. It creates fractures in the rock and forces the gas into wells at the surface.
Fracking is touted as a cleaner source of energy than coal, a job-creating industry and a potential revenue source for the Midwest. However, many scientists and activists have warned against the practice as it may contaminate drinking water and could even cause earthquakes.
Governor Quinn signed the Hydraulic Fracturing Regulatory Act, HFRA, into law in June 2013, allowing fracking to take place in the state, despite opposition from environmentalist groups, including the Illinois People’s Action (IPA).
The IPA is a Bloomington-centered group affiliated with the National People’s Action (NPA). Their protests against fracking are part of an environmental justice campaign.
“We don’t believe fracking can be done safely, even with regulation,” Jennifer Carrillo, a community organizer with IPA, said.
The IPA’s main goal right now is to make sure Quinn fixes what they call “the dirty 30,” or the 30 worst aspects of the currently proposed fracking rules. These include fracking in earthquake zones and imposing fines too cheap to dissuade companies from breaking the rules.
“When this legislation was passed, they were saying these regulations were going to be the strictest in the country,” Carrillo said.
“We would prefer that there be no fracking at all in Illinois, but the least they can do is make sure the rules reflect the intent of the law.”
By putting pressure on Quinn at public events, like the Governor’s Day Brunch, the IPA wants to force him to “choose a side.”
“If Quinn calls himself an environmentalist, he needs to fix the dirty 30 and start protecting the best interests of the people, not the oil and gas companies,” Carrillo said.
The IPA’s biggest challenge is the lack of acknowledgement from politicians, who say they are doing the best they can.
Pro-fracking groups, on the other hand, continue to brush off the IPA’s attempts to slow the progress of these regulations. One such group is Energy in Depth, a self-proclaimed “research, education and public outreach campaign” launched by the Independent Petroleum Association of America in 2009.
“The anti-fracking movement knows what it cannot get — a ban on high-volume hydraulic fracturing in Illinois. [Illinois Department of Natural Resources] director Marc Miller has said as much,” Seth Whitehead, Illinois Field Director for Energy in Depth, said.
“However, what they can do is misinform and scare the public. They do so by staging stunts like Wednesday’s protest, garnering unwarranted media attention in the process. I believe they hope that media attention will indirectly influence the casual observer to believe that fracking is dangerous, and that those folks will put pressure on lawmakers to continuing the delays. It’s a desperation tactic,” Whitehead said.
“They do three things well: manipulate, misinform and play the media game,” he added.