Group Pushing Illinois Fracking Bans Plays Both Sides of the Issue

Earlier this year, EID reported on a spectacular failure by anti-fracking groups in Johnson County to pass a measure that would have halted oil and gas development. One of the key organizations behind that effort was the Community Environmental Legal Defense Fund (CELDF), which had actually hired a field staffer in Illinois last October to help push the measure.

On the surface, CELDF’s efforts in Johnson County are not new or surprising – they’ve promoted a number of similar initiatives in Colorado, California and Ohio, to name a few. What is surprising, however, is CELDF’s claim that its own position on hydraulic fracturing is one of neutrality. In a recent Energy & Environment News article, CELDF’s national organizing director, Ben Prince, told the reporter that his organization is neither for nor against fracking:

Even though much of its recent work has focused on challenges to the oil and gas industry, Price rejects the suggestion that the nonprofit has made a conscious effort to focus on hydraulic fracturing.

‘Fracking is not part of our mission, if you will. We’re not an advocate against fracking or for fracking, or for or against anything particularly,’ said Price. (emphasis added)

The truth is that CELDF is anything but an impartial observer, and the evidence is not difficult to uncover.

For example, CELDF has posted a “how-to” video entitled, “So Your Community is Going to be Fracked, Mined, Factory Farmed, or fill in the blank… Want to stop it? What to know and where to start.”

In the video, Thomas Linzey, CELDF’s executive director, lays out three distinct options for local communities:

1. “Do nothing, which is the easiest choice, but then we get drilled, or fracked, or whatever;”

2. “Participate in the regulatory system, but then we also will get drilled of fracked;” or

3. “Do something else, outside the box.”

Number three is the obvious CELDF recommendation: one of the goals outlined in the video is to “prohibit corporate fracking.”

Meanwhile, CELDF’s own website identifies ‘Gas Drilling and Fracking’ as one of its top issues:

“In November 2010, CELDF worked with the City of Pittsburgh to become the first community in the nation to ban hydraulic fracturing, or ‘fracking.’ By a unanimous vote, the city council adopted the CELDF-drafted Community Bill of Rights ordinance banning shale gas drilling and fracking, and establishing community and nature’s rights.”

The organization goes on to state: “Our work is growing as communities across the country are being targeted by gas corporations.” At the bottom of the page, there’s a note for people who want to learn more:

“To explore rights-based organizing in opposition to the fracking of your community, contact us at”

For an organization that claims to be “not an advocate against fracking or for fracking,” these statements certainly suggest a far less nuanced position.

Of course, CELDF is not the only organization trying to mask its extreme agenda by way of deliberate mischaracterizations. It’s not even the only group that has tried to deceive the public about the “local control” effort.

In Colorado, an activist group called Local Control Colorado (LCC) made similar and contradictory comments to The Denver Post, stating that its campaign “isn’t about fracking,” but rather about “giving communities the ability to put some controls on development.”

However, on a recent conference call, a representative from that same group said they “are working to ban fracking,” in lockstep with the other groups on that call.

The “ban fracking” campaign is too extreme for Illinois, and would destroy thousands of job opportunities for hardworking men and women all across our state. That’s why the groups pushing the anti-fracking agenda have failed repeatedly in their efforts. They are now so desperate to remain relevant that they will say anything to try to convince the public that they are anything except what they really stand for – even if it means making deliberately false statements to the press.

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