DECATUR — Braze T. Smith challenged the Illinois Department of Natural Resources on Tuesday to stop acting like Bugs Bunny.
Smith, an organic farmer and scientist from outside Carbondale, was among the speakers at a public hearing to comment on proposed Hydraulic Fracturing Regulatory Act administrative rules.
Smith said the department is like the famed cartoon character about to push a red “Do Not Push” but-ton in terms of possibly setting off seismic activity.
The department is seeking public input as it implements provisions of the recently-enacted hydraulic fracturing law.
“The DNR has been provided an impossible task and that’s to make the process safe,” Smith said. “There is no safe for fracking.”
Smith asked the audience to stand and take part in a preemptive moment of silence to think about all those who will be harmed by fracking.
The process known as fracking is a method of extracting gas and oil trapped deep underground by using mixtures of high-pressure water, sand and chemicals to create and hold open rock formations. Combined with horizontal drilling, it allows access to formerly out of reach deposits.
More than 20 speakers opposed to the fracking regulations dominated the comments made during the nearly two-hour hearing, with many representing Illinois People’s Action, FAIR Economy Illinois and Sierra Club groups.
Those speakers addressed points from its so called Dirty Dozen list of concerns it has about the process, which includes groundwater safety, radioactivity and local control of regulations.
Groups in favor of fracking had pushed for the law to be put into effect earlier this year. Gov. Pat Quinn signed the law in June.
However, only one speaker during the hearing openly supported fracking. Randomly chosen speakers from those who signed up wanting to talk were given four minutes to make comments and were asked to submit the rest of their comments in writing.
Sherry Procarione of Oakley plans to run for U.S. Senate as a Republican write-in candidate. She favors fracking in as many places as possible and said the others were presenting misinformation.
The jobs created by fracking operations could provide an economic boost to areas with high unemployment such as Decatur, Procarione said.
Landowners should be given the fundamental right to choose what happens on their property and have the ability to contract privately, Procarione said.
The Decatur Civic Center auditorium was nearly full as concerned citizens from across the state at-tended the hearing. Illinois People’s Action organized buses to allow its supporters from Bloomington-Normal, Springfield and Peoria to attend the meeting.
Decatur police and Illinois Conservation Police officers were on hand to keep order, but speakers adhered to the procedures set up for the meeting without incident.
After the final of five hearings is held in Carbondale on Thursday, written comments will continue to be accepted until Jan. 3. IDNR had staff and attorneys on stage taking notes but they were instructed not to respond to any comments made during the meeting.
The department is required to take all comments into account as it enters the next stage of the regulation-writing process.
Once the review period ends, the IDNR plans to submit the proposed regulations to the 12-member Legislative Joint Committee on Administrative Rules for a 45-day second notice review. The committee will decide whether IDNR can proceed to adopt the rules.
CHRIS LUSVARDI writes for the (Decatur) Herald & Review. Lusvardi can be reached at email@example.com or 217-421-7972.