Evanston Residents Rally Against Fracking, S.B. 1715

Story by Anne Li ’16

A small but passionate group of Illinoisans gathered in Panera Bread in Downtown Evanston this past Thursday before presenting Rep. Robyn Gabel (D-Ill.)’s office with a petition against a hydraulic fracturing bill.

S.B. 1715 was introduced mid-February of this year and would create the Illinois Hydraulic Fracturing Regulatory Act, which among other things would prohibit fracturing without a permit and regulates where the operation could occur, and the Illinois Hydraulic Fracturing Tax Act, which among other things imposes a tax on oil or gas provided via hydraulic fracturing.
The Evanston meeting was held on a statewide Day of Action presented by MoveOn.org, an online advocacy group, against hydraulic fracturing, also known as “fracking,” which is a controversial method of mining natural gas.

“If nothing else, [we’re here] to realize we’re not alone, and to learn things we don’t know already,” Kurt Bjorling, host of the event, said to the group of at least eight people.
Concerned individuals began trickling in to Panera’s conference room at 11 a.m. to simply meet each other before walking to Gabel’s office a little before noon. Their discussion covered a range of issues, including what they believe is poor or lack of media coverage of S.B. 1715 and the potential environmental issues that could result from hydraulic fracturing.

Though hydraulic fracturing does not occur in Evanston, members of Thursday’s meeting feared it could contaminate Lake Michigan and underground aquifers and spread to other parts of the state.

“Water doesn’t observe county boundaries, state boundaries,” Bjorling said.

Hydraulic fracturing gained national attention when Gasland, a 2010 American documentary on the health and environmental effects of hydraulic fracturing in a Pennsylvania town, was nominated for the 2011 Academy Award for Best Documentary.

Since then, several states have been involved in the hydraulic fracturing discussion. The Evanston petition against S.B. 1715 directed at Gabel contained 205 constituent signatures. Those at the meeting agreed that Gabel was doing a good job in fighting for their cause, but hoped the petition would remind her that the issue remains relevant for many people’s lives.
Liane Casten, founder of Chicago Media Watch, said of the importance of Illinoisan movement against hydraulic fracturing, “[We need to] set an example.”