Illinois Anti-Fracking Movement Continues to Fight with Itself

In the days since the Joint Committee on Administrative Rules (JCAR) green-lighted high volume hydraulic fracturing in Illinois, downstate activists have been turning on each other.

A recent headline by Huffington Post blogger Will Reynolds sums up the not-so-tactful tone of the environmentalist infighting. Reynolds’ post — “Profile in Cowardice: Senator Don Harmon Fracks Illinois” — might as well be titled “Profile on How to Burn Bridges.”

Senator Harmon is widely considered to be a leader in the mainstream environmentalist movement in Illinois, and he also happens to be the chair of JCAR, the non-partisan legislative committee that approved by an 11-0 vote the administrative rules for hydraulic fracturing regulations. Those regulations were established by a law that passed by a combined 160-12 vote in the Illinois House and Senate more than 500 days ago.

Reynolds essentially claims the senator could have unilaterally made the rules tougher and could have insisted on further debate at the Nov. 6 JCAR hearing. But that’s just not how JCAR works. What Reynolds fails to realize is that Harmon’s personal views are irrelevant when it comes to executing his role on the committee. JCAR’s job is to make sure that rules follow the legislators’ intent, not expand on the letter of the law.

JCAR simply did its job, interpreting the law rather than shaping it based on personal opinions.

Contrary to the claims of activists such as Reynolds, JCAR’s revisions after the second draft submitted by the IDNR were not the result of “secret deals” in “smoke-filled rooms.” It was the result of JCAR following through on its legal obligation.

Natural Resources Defense Council blogger Ann Alexander even acknowledged that the final rules posted Friday are “significantly better” than the IDNR’s first draft.  As Alexander said:

“A good number of DNR’s positive changes made in the August (second) draft are still in there, over industry’s objection.”

In response to Alexander, activist Dr. Lora Chamberlain produced a vitriol-filled Facebook post that essentially throws all mainstream environmentalist groups under the bus:

“Change your ways NRDC, change your ways all of the Corporate Greens – we must chart the pathway that WILL save the planet and move us forward to our renewable energy renaissance – and then push it will everything that we have – all the energy, money and people that we can muster. You can no longer sit down with corrupt industries to make back room deals just to maintain your access to politicians and your corporate donors. We in the grass roots movement will not tolerate it!”

What are the mainstream environmentalist groups’ crimes, you ask? Participating in negotiations that produced the Illinois Hydraulic Fracturing Regulatory Act, which is the most prescriptive, toughest set of regulations in the country.

The latter matters little to fringe activists, of course — they will settle for nothing less than a ban. And when they don’t get their way, throwing groups such as the Sierra Club and Illinois Environmental Council under the bus is apparently their go-to strategy. This comes after deliberate stall tactics that contributed to more than a year of unnecessary delay prior to the release of the IDNR’s second draft of regulatory rules ultimately proved unsuccessful.  JCAR simply stopped the madness just prior to a drop-dead Nov. 15 deadline that would have started the process all over again.

The most extreme anti-fracking groups in Illinois can certainly pretend that other environmental groups sold them out, and that they have not lost the argument – but most Illinois workers are ready to move forward.


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