Illinois’ Anti-Fracking Movement Fractured on Message

On a sunny Saturday afternoon in a quiet residential neighborhood in Oak Park, a group of approximately 60 anti-fracking activists gathered. The event was to march and protest outside the office of Senator Don Harmon.

But many of the supporters didn’t even know who Sen. Harmon was or why he was the target of Illinois’ Frackdown event.

“Is he an elected official?” one asked. “Is he a state senator?” said another.

Clearly, being an informed and knowledgeable participant comes second to gathering as many people together to hold signs and wear stickers saying “Ban Fracking.”

Illinois Frackdown 1

Those following the hydraulic fracturing story in Illinois, of course, know that Sen. Harmon is the Co-Chair of the Joint Committee on Administrative Rules (JCAR) – a bi-partisan, bicameral group of Illinois legislators charged with either approving or rejecting the Illinois Department of Natural Resources’ (IDNR) second draft of rules for the Illinois Hydraulic Fracturing Regulatory Act (IHFRA). Sen. Harmon and JCAR are set to meet downtown today for the committee’s monthly meeting, and most expect the IHFRA rules to be addressed in that meeting.

After taking over the front lawn and front steps of a random resident’s home for about 30 minutes (without asking permission – property rights have always been a tough sell to the “ban fracking” crowd), the group began their chanting and paraded down the street towards Sen. Harmon’s office. Finding the office empty, their only success was a few confused and mostly annoyed business owners and patrons curious to see what the disturbance was.

A young man and his son unknowingly walked into the melee when they exited a local breakfast spot. Upon hearing the chants, the man asked, “Doesn’t [hydraulic fracturing] lower gas prices? That’s good right?” Falling on deaf ears, the man’s question went unanswered.

Instead, the activists decided to whip out their colored chalk and began writing “Ban Fracking Now” and “No rules could save IL from fracking” on the sidewalk. But that wasn’t enough, so they taped their signs to the front window of the senator’s office. Among the signs, one read: Send the rules back to the General Assembly and allow Illinois a chance to be heard.

Illinois Frackdown 3

Illoinis Frackdown 2

The reality that this small minority refuses to accept is that Illinois has been heard. The IHFRA was passed by a combined vote of 160 to 12 in the Illinois House and Senate.

And while these activists huddle on front lawns in Chicago, residents who actually live and work in the Illinois counties most likely to see shale development in their backyards are joining together to let their voices of support be heard. The recently formed O.IL (Opportunity In Land) coalition aims to give a collective voice for southeastern Illinois’ overwhelming support for shale development. The coalition will host three county hall meetings this month, kicking off today with a meeting at the White County Fairgrounds in Carmi. More than 100 are expected to attend.

Those folks can expect the O.IL coalition to deliver its message in a far different fashion than the anti-fracking movement chose to deliver its message Saturday.

Facts and civil discussion will be used to highlight the many benefits of shale development. A lineup of seven guest speakers will focus on specific positive aspects of HVHF, in addition to educating the attendees on the many tactics fracking opponents have used to delay shale development nearly 500 days after the IHFRA was signed by Gov. Pat Quinn.

It will be a sharp contrast to the communication methods used by the anti-fracking movement Saturday in Oak Park. And considering the activists’ antics generated almost zero media coverage, it promises to be far more effective as well.

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