The backroom negotiations behind the midwestern state’s new fracking regulations may be a taste of what’s to come in other places.
What happens in Illinois, doesn't stay in Illinois. That was the message last week of acclaimed scientist and author Sandra Steingraber, who joined the growing local uprising’s last ditch effort to pass a moratorium on the controversial hydraulic gas drilling operations until the state could conduct a comprehensive scientific and health assessment.
The Illinois House and Senate passed a regulatory bill last Friday, which had been brokered in a backroom deal by Illinois Democrats, gas industry and labor representatives, and a small cadre of environmental groups—and to the consternation of Steingraber and grassroot activists, without any independent scientists, health experts, or impacted downstate residents at the negotiating table.
Despite these concerns, the Chicago Tribune’s lede was "Let the fracking begin.” The Washington Post, similarly, ran with the prevailing narrative about the bill: "Illinois lawmakers approve nation's toughest fracking regulations."
Not so, says Steingraber, an Illinois native, who has played a key role in the anti-fracking movement in New York and across the country. Testifying at a last minute House committee hearing with Gasland director Josh Fox, leading protests at the Illinois state capitol and confronting bill negotiators from the offices of Gov. Pat Quinn, Attorney General Lisa Madigan, and environmental lobbyists, Steingraber didn't pull any punches. "We consider the fracking regulatory bill to be a subversion of both science and democracy,” she said. “No public hearings or public comment periods ever took place. And yet it is the public that is being compelled to live with the risks sanctioned by this bill. It is an unjust law."
Filmmaker Ben Evans and I sat down with Steingraber on the eve of the vote and asked her to speak on a number of topics, including why Illinois' historic fracking regulations should matter to the rest of the nation, and why the state is becoming another ground zero for the national climate movement.
(Part 1 of the video is above, while parts 2 through 5 are posted below.)
Jeff Biggers and Ben Evans created this article and shot these videos for YES! Magazine, a national, nonprofit media organization that fuses powerful ideas and practical actions.
Winner of the David R. Brower Award for Environmental Reporting, Jeff Biggers is the author of Reckoning at Eagle Creek: The Secret Legacy of Coal in the Heartland, among other books. His website is www.jeffbiggers.com.
Ben Evans is a documentary filmmaker, actor, and owner of BEgreenCreative. His award-winning eco-docu-comedy, "YERT: Your Environmental Road Trip," is now available from First Run Features and at the film's website.
Original article on Yes Magazine
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The standard Republican meme, that everything is better done by the private sector, has been debunked in almost every way imaginable (more on that in a bit), but there’s perhaps no more graphic an example of the private sector being much, much worse than the unionized public sector than the Chicago Public Schools janitorial staff.
One Southwest Side elementary principal — who along with others did not want her name printed for fear of retribution — said in a telephone interview that since Aramark took over the school, it has developed...
Justin Rosario | Proud to Be Filthy Liberal Scum 17 Sep 2014 Hits:990 Illinois
“Family run businesses are a great investment. They are part-and-parcel of a community. Corporate raiders like Bruce Rauner will never understand that,” said Dr. Dupuis, co-owner of Wheatland Animal Hospital. Dupuis employs more than two dozen residents of DuPage and Will counties.
The billionaire GOP candidate who pledged to run Illinois ‘like a business,’ will put the interests of his Wall Street pals ahead of Illinois’ main street small businesses
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Staff | Illinois Freedom 14 Sep 2014 Hits:738 Illinois
Over one hundred Chicago public school students, parents, and community members marched to the city's Board of Education on Monday to demand an end to the school closures, mass lay-offs, and undemocratic political deal-making they say are devastating one of the largest public education districts in the country.
Organized by the Chicago Students Union, which spans 25 of the city's schools and boasts over 200 student participants since it launched last year, the crowd held a mid-day press conference then marched to the headquarters of the Chicago Board of Education. At...
Sarah Lazare | Common Dreams 28 Aug 2014 Hits:691 Illinois
Escalating a fight with Mayor Rahm Emanuel, a company that stores enormous mounds of petroleum coke on Chicago's Southeast Side is threatening to sue unless city officials allow the gritty piles to remain uncovered for another four years.
KCBX Terminals, a firm controlled by industrialists Charles and David Koch, is pushing to delay the construction of storage sheds for two years past a 2016 deadline imposed by the Emanuel administration in response to complaints about black dust blowing into surrounding neighborhoods.
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Charter school operators aren’t the only one’s not being held accountable—a major complaint of the Chicago Teachers Union—it’s the machine politicians angling for electoral support and continued political power.
The War on Independents Wages On
Battle lines were once again drawn between Chicago’s machine democrats and independent democrats when Ald. Toni Foulkes was remapped out of her Southside 15th Ward that changed from a majority of African Americans to 68.3 percent Hispanic.
There may be numerous candidates campaigning for the open 15th Ward aldermanic seat but there is certain to be one...
RA Monaco | Sheffield Gazette 29 Jun 2014 Hits:765 Illinois
Senate Democrats plan to make an end-of-session push this week to “rectify an historical wrong” -- and perhaps give women a strong reason to go to the polls this fall -- by putting Illinois on record in support of an Equal Rights Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.
The bid to revive the Equal Rights Amendment, which was the subject of an epic Statehouse battle in the early 1980s that helped kill the feminist push to amend the U.S. Constitution, comes from state Sen. Heather Steans, D-Chicago and could be a vehicle for...
Dave McKinney | Chicago Sun-Times 19 May 2014 Hits:656 Illinois
More than 40 years after the Equal Rights Amendment was first passed by the U.S. Congress, an Illinois state senator is taking another crack at getting her colleagues in Springfield to adopt the provision that would enshrine in the U.S. Constitution the idea that rights can't be abridged on account of sex.
Sen. Heather Steans, D-Chicago, said the proposed amendment is still relevant today given the ongoing debates about equal pay, abortion rights and other issues on which women are fighting for equality.
And she said it's symbolically important to "get Illinois...
John Byrne | Chicago Tribune 19 May 2014 Hits:544 Illinois
It’s official: Illinois on Wednesday joined 15 other states and the District of Columbia in legalizing same-sex marriage.
Democratic Gov. Pat Quinn, accompanied by state Rep. Greg Harris, Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel, and several other dignitaries, signed into law a measure allowing gay couples to begin marrying on June 1. “It’s a triumph of democracy, a triumph of government by the people,” said the governor, shortly before signing. “We want to have a new birth of freedom across America, and love is not relegated to second-class citizen status.”
The historic nature of...
Emma Margolin | MSNBC.com 21 Nov 2013 Hits:568 Illinois
On Monday, November 18 at noon almost 100 voters rallied in Springfield to ask Senator Richard Durbin to keep cuts to Social Security off the table. Senator Durbin has proposed possible changes such as lifting the Social Security eligibility age and implementing “Chained CPI” for individuals that earn more than $24,000. After an informational picket along Edwards Street the group followed lead organizer JoAnn Conrad retired AFSCME, IEA-NEA, chair of the Progressive Democrats of Greater Springfield, led the rally across Edwards to the senator’s office. The message was “Scrap the...
JoAnn Conrad 18 Nov 2013 Hits:667 Illinois
Those who rely on food stamps will have to make do with a little less beginning today as a boost in funding from the federal stimulus package is set to expire.
The change will affect more than 2 million low-income residents in Illinois who are enrolled in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, according to the Illinois Department of Human Services. Nationally, about 47 million people are expected to feel the pinch.
The move marks the end of an extra $45.2 billion the federal government funneled into the food stamp program beginning in...
Monique Garcia | The Chicago Tribune 03 Nov 2013 Hits:523 Illinois
As another coal train derailed in southern Illinois last weekend, the Illinois State Historical Society teamed up with the Illinois Coal Association on Saturday for their own collision with history during the installation of a historical marker for the state's "First Coal Mine." The real train wreck: Among numerous errors, the Illinois State Historical Society marker fails to mention that other coal mines abounded in southern Illinois, thanks to enslaved African American labor -- including the so-called "first coal mine" -- while the Illinois Coal Association took the occasion...
Jeff Biggers | The Huffington Post 28 Oct 2013 Hits:622 Illinois
The pinnacle of last week's Take Back Chicago rally at UIC came near the end, when the 11 aldermen onstage were asked point-blank whether they support pending proposals to slow privatization and tax increment financing deals. Yes or no?
As more than 2,000 of the city's most dedicated activists looked on, the aldermen all said yes—even though a couple of them are among the most consistent council supporters of Mayor Rahm Emanuel.
They then sat there smirking, as if to say, you can't trap me, because I'm too slick.
Things got so absurd...
Ben Joravsky | Chicago Reader 23 Oct 2013 Hits:572 Illinois
Two sections that essentially told kids that coal was safe and good for the environment disappeared today from the website of a state agency in Illinois.
The Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity has removed coal-related educational sections from its website, less than two weeks after the launch of a grassroots campaign demanding that the pages be taken down.
The website sections were supposed to educate children about energy, but had been widely denounced because they focused on misleading pro-coal messages.
It wasn't just environmentalists who objected to the way Illinois was...
Jeff Biggers | Yes Magazine 14 Oct 2013 Hits:707 Illinois
As absentee oil and gas companies register with the state of Illinois this month, downstate citizens groups are taking the lead among statewide environmental groups and laying out scientific and legal standards for the Illinois Department of Natural Resources and Joint Committee on Administrative Rules to consider prior to drafting the controversial horizontal hydraulic fracking rules.
In a letter sent this week to the key legislative committee and state IDNR agency officials, the groups representing rural communities targeted for fracking operations cite "several new scientific studies and academic research papers that...
Jeff Biggers | Huffington Post 08 Oct 2013 Hits:840 Illinois
Dear Rep. Schock,
I am a constituent, writing in my role as coordinator of the Greater Peoria Chapter of Progressive Democrats of America (PDA).
I and other PDA members were at your town hall meeting in Heyworth, where some of your constituents encouraged you to vote to shut down the government unless the Affordable Care Act is defunded. In reply, you made the sensible point that ACA can't be defunded through the budget process, and that shutting down the government would bring extremely negative political consequences for Republicans. You also stated that...
Larry Jones | Journal Star 29 Sep 2013 Hits:767 Illinois
For many residents in southern Illinois dealing with the fallout of a sanctioned coal and fracking rush, the time has come to revamp the historic Illinois South organization and its…
Two years after a national campaign exposed a coal industry-bankrolled curriculum foisted on unwitting teachers and children, the state of Illinois is still dragging its feet to revamp its own…
On the cusp of a hydraulic fracking rush, southern Illinois should recall its boom-bust history
CARMI, Ill. —
When an oil rush swamped her town of Carmi in the early 1940s, my…
When farmers, families and besieged Hillsboro residents gather this evening for a public hearing on a controversial permit proposal by a coal company to build a second 77-foot-high high hazard…
Inside the 40th annual meeting of the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) in Chicago, former Florida Governor Jeb Bush and other right-wing big-wigs addressed ALEC members and on-the-dole politicians.
Has Rep. Brad Schneider finally gone too far with his recent vote against implementing the very small amount of health care reform that was so very hard won?
In case you…
Brad visiting the historic Edmund Pettus Bridge with Rep. John Lewis earlier this month. (From his Facebook page)
While I have been very pleased with the fact that our congressman, Brad…
It is too bad Congresswoman Tammy Duckworth (IL-08) was not on the House floor last Wednesday when they voted on the McGovern Amendment to the Farm Bill which would have…
Parents and students occupied a Chicago school Wednesday, refusing to budge from a Lafayette Elementary classroom on the final day of education before the school is permanently shut down by…
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