October 21, 2014

More "victories" in Illinois fracking law that are functionally useless

I'm looking at registration forms submitted to the Illinois Department of Natural Resources by companies that want to frack Illinois.

One company with a notorious environmental record was able to check the box saying it has no history of violations because the form only asks if they had a violation on fracking in the past five years. Have a violation for conventional oil & gas operations? No problem. You've only been operating in Texas where almost no one gets held accountable? No problem.

It's another part of the Illinois fracking law that sounds good but is basically worthless in practice. As a friend wrote; it would be like one of us having a regular driver's license, getting multiple DUIs and speeding tickets, and then deciding we wanted to get a CDL (commercial drivers license). Without having a search on our previous driving record, without having to take a new test, and only having to pay a license fee. Then if we got caught again, all we would have to do is change our name, and we could start with a clean slate all over again.

This reminds me of the Chicago-based green groups who negotiated the fracking law proudly bragging about the supposed victory they won allowing cities to ban it. Yet, the likely impacted areas are mostly rural counties where banning within city limits is no meaningful barrier to frackers. Countywide bans, which would have a meaningful impact, aren't allowed.

On another topic, the fracking registration forms say no permits will be issued until the rules are finally approved. A few groups who are focused on crafting better regulation made a campaign around getting Quinn to not issue fracking permits until the rules are final. Apparently, Quinn's IDNR never considered anything else. That campaign appears to have been a chew toy that kept groups occupied in a way that doesn't challenge Quinn or change the politics around fracking.

October 6, 2014

Who will be the climate change candidate in 2016?

Will the climate movement have a serious contender for President in 2016? Now's the time to find someone strong on the most urgent crisis of our time and serious about winning the White House.

Should that candidate be Hillary Clinton?  She says the right things. But the most significant actions of her career are promoting fracking as Secretary of State and letting the oil industry influence environmental impact studies for the Keystone XL pipeline. 

With a record like that, it's hard to imagine what Clinton can say to convince skeptical primary voters that a politician notorious for having her finger to the wind will suddenly became a stalwart champion against powerful fossil fuel interests. This is the same person who backed off from her signature issue, universal healthcare, for roughly ten years after the '93 setback and retreated to safer talking points about prescription drugs for seniors.

Is it reasonable to believe someone who has played it safe for her entire career will suddenly become obstinate against the most powerful interests in Washington? The cost of taking only small, politically easy steps in classic Clintonian fashion will be many more lives lost in climate change disasters. The future of civilization as we know it depends on electing a President who will take the kind of bold, courageous action that neither Hillary nor her husband (the Neville Chamberlain of the climate crisis) have demonstrated during their careers.

Clinton's approval numbers have nosedived to under 50% since she left the Obama administration and stepped back into the spotlight. Despite the inevitability narrative around Clinton, it's realistic to believe a candidate can challenge her in Iowa and other early primary states. That fear is why her supporters are so determined to discourage anyone else from running.

The dream candidate for the environmental movement who could start with enough money, name recognition, and experience to seriously challenge Clinton is Al Gore. I would love to re-elect Gore, but he hasn't expressed interest in running. Yet.

Bernie Sanders speaks boldly about climate change but it doesn't sound like he's serious about winning the election. Most primary voters and donors aren't interested in wasting time on a campaign that's only trying to raise issues. If we're discussing dream candidates, I'd be excited to see Obama's former Labor Secretar, Hilda Solis bring her focus on environmental justice to the election. 

Among those talking about running, Maryland Governor Martin O'Malley has the most impressive record of acting on climate. Stroll through the Climate Change Maryland website to see how other states should do it.

It's not mere window dressing. Maryland passed a Greenhouse Gas Reduction Act in 2009, released a plan in 2013, and has set the goal of reducing emissions 25% by 2020. 

O'Malley's big test is how he acts on fracking. Some Democratic leaders and big green funders are a little slow to acknowledge that natural gas isn't a realistic solution to climate change. Even if you don't account for methane leaks, switching from coal to another fossil fuel simply can't produce the kind of greenhouse gas reductions required to address the crisis.

Most of the environmental grassroots have a more reality-based position. The movement against fracking is passionate and growing rapidly. If O'Malley supports fracking his previous actions won't help him in the Democratic primary. He'll be just another lackluster candidate with a mixed environmental record.

Among those already running, Martin O'Malley looks like the most likely candidate for the climate change movement to unite behind but he'll have to take a strong stand against fracking.

September 24, 2014

Congressional candidate Mike Bost says fracking is safe but environmentalists want people to die

Illinois Republican Congressional candidate Mike Bost has some unusual beliefs about environmentalists and fracking. In a recent radio interview, Bost said about environmentalists:
"...if it was up to them, people should die and everything else should exist. Now, I know because I was in the negotiations with them."
Bost was referring to his role negotiating the law that will open Illinois to fracking. Several groups based in Chicago, including Faith-in-Place, NRDC, and the Environmental Law & Policy Center participated in negotiations and supported the law over the objection of environmentalists in areas that will be most impacted.

Now, I wasn't present for negotiations but I've never heard staff for any of those groups suggest anything remotely similar to the opinion that people should die and everything else should exist. In fact, most climate change and anti-fracking activists are involved to save human life.

Many of us noticed that fracking made North Dakota the deadliest state to work in.

We're bothered that fracking operations use chemicals known to cause cancer respiratory problems, birth defects and other health impacts.

We know the massive increase in trucks transporting dangerous chemicals is yet another unavoidable deadly hazard, especially since toxic spills shutting down I-57 in southern Illinois is already a regular story.

Since fracking contributes to climate change we're also working to reduce climate disasters like extreme flooding in southern Illinois.

But Mike Bost is excited about fracking because it will bring tax revenue and jobs. He's willing to sacrifice human life for the sake of transient temp jobs that will mostly go to out-of-state workers for the profit of out-of-state companies. And he has the balls to accuse environmentalists of not caring about human life?

Surprisingly, this is considered a competitive race. Fracking is highly controversial in the district. A poll taken last year showed southern Illinois evenly split on whether fracking should be allowed, with 54% of independents opposed. That's remarkable considering the same poll claims 80% support coal mining. Opposition is growing but there's a conspicuous absence of regional or statewide polls on the topic since then. His support for fracking will cost Bost support among moderates and independents.

Because I'm pretty certain no real-world environmentalist ever expressed to Bost the views he claims, I have to wonder what imaginary tree-huggers he was negotiating with. Do other people see them? Do they always take human form? Does he typically win arguments with his imaginary enemies or lose? Hopefully someone on his staff can help if these mysterious negotiators make more demands.

September 19, 2014

Congressman Shimkus faces backlash to deceptive fracking comments

Illinois' most embarrassing Congressman, John Shimkus, faced an outraged backlash for pro-fracking statements he made on facebook. He's already well known as a climate change denier and conspiracy theorist on the fringe of the energy debate. Although there's a long tradition of coal mining in his district, fracking is very controversial.

Shimkus has a steady stream of constituents who regularly respond to his misleading and foolish facebook posts. But several posts supporting fracking attracted unusually strong pushback.

The first recent post linked a radio interview in which Shimkus says fracking, "isn't really new. Its been around since the 40's." This is a common talking point industry propagandists use to confuse people.

Some forms of vertical fracking have been around for decades. Recent debates and regulation are focused on horizontal, high powered fracking, which people in the industry know was developed in the 90's. Shimkus then says with no irony that "it's difficult to separate what's fact from fiction these days." That's especially true when someone's Congressman is lying to them.

Shimkus then posted a picture of a fracking operation with the comment, "Looking forward to seeing this in Southern Illinois" that generated 85 mostly brutal responses from downstate residents.

  • Great idea! Let's frack away our future! Goodbye geological stability. Hey...we're going to need more lawyers, doctors, and environmental remediation services in the area to deal with all of the negative impacts of fracking. What a short sighted plan.
  • Southern Illinois has beauty beyond compare. Crystal clear water to drink. Clean air to breath. Why in the world do you think God would want you to do anymore to this area than has already been done by strip mining and underground mining? Piling shale on the ground making our highways nasty. Please rethink this highway of thinking. You've been there for us in the past, please think of our future.

  • Proof we have the best congressman money can buy.

  • I'm not looking forward to such ruin of our region. Ban fracking. Put your support behind wind, solar and energy efficient design please, Otherwise, you do not have my vote.

  • Can we put one next to your house?

  • Yeah, because that well is so much more beautiful than Shawnee National Forest and the surrounding land. Idiot.

  • They are fracking in Central Illinois bypassing the Regulatory Act by staying under the volume that would cause them to wait for the rules to be finalized and by using fluids other than water to frack. See what they can get away with in this state! The Regulatory Act is going to be useless against these companies.

  • In 2012 the State of Texas reported $1.5 billion in revenues from all fracking activities. That same year the Texas Department of Transportation determined that fracking truck traffic was causing $4 billion in roadway damages statewide annually. http://www.FrackingRoadDamage.com
  • You support this you will condemn us all .It is your obligation too get the facts. Remember John we live on two fault lines.

  • "this" should be NO where near Southern Illinois. Trashing the land, air and using precious water to frack the earth? Oh also fracking near New Madrid fault....are you so out of touch you don't see that?

  • So, will the first "test" sites be in YOUR backyard, contamination affecting YOUR family? Most folks boosting southern Illinois look forward to seeing forests, rock formations, lakes, and... Wineries... This picture does none of those justice. It also makes me want to move for the sake of my baby boy!!!!!!!

  • You are totally wrong about this issue; Illinois is one of the most beautiful states in the union with some of the best water anywhere. Now you want to ruin it? What the hell is wrong with you? We intend to fight this fight to the end!

  • You can't restore ruined buildings from earthquakes, and you can't restore polluted water once it has made people sick. You are gambling with people's lives, to make a few dollars for a few people, most of whom don't need it. Shame on you.

  • Fracking destroys. Fracking destroys wildlife. Fracking destroys tourism. Fracking destroys drinking water. Whoever is for Fracking has no empathy for our planet.

  • You are either incredibly stupid, incredibly uncaring, or a combination of both if you look forward to seeing this in Southern Illinois. Do you also look forward to the earthquakes that will devastate Southern Illinois? Do you look forward to the land and water being destroyed? What is WRONG with you politicians? Is that almighty dollar that you're getting from all of these people destroying our planet going to be worth it when you also don't have decent air to breathe, water to drink, or constituents to vote for you? I hope all politicians supporting fracking are ousted from office as soon as possible. Fracking in Southern Illinois is a terrible, terrible thing and the fact that you don't know this makes me sick.

  • With all due respect, Congressman: ABSOLUTELY NOT! No way are the people of southern Illinois prepared for the noise, traffic, and pollution this will create. Take fracking to Chicago!

  • NO! This is *not* a sight I want to see in Southern Illinois, now or EVER! We live on two active faults. I have friends in many areas that have allowed fracking. They have constant earthquakes. No job, no income, is worth endangering millions of lives. Please re-think this.
  • why weren't we considered for the Tesla Plant, you have any idea what 6500 decent jobs would mean to this district, well are you trying to bring long term development here? oh and talk to folks in Ohio about fracking jobs, transients living in hotels and apartments leaving on Friday, lots of work for restaurants, bars and gas stations and when the crews move on so do those crappy jobs...
I could copy dozens more.
    Shimkus got cute with his response and posted a graphic of outdated and out of context quotes from former and current Obama administration officials. Then another of academics who have worked for the industry claiming there has been no water contamination from fracking.

    I added my own comment this time that got 13 likes.
    243 cases of drinking well water contaminated in Pennsylvania. Does it bother anyone else to have their Congressman lie to them?
    http://triblive.com/mobile/6696428-96/wells-released-gas
    Plenty of others chimed in with more stories, studies, and facts to correct Shimkus' attempt to mislead his constituents.

    I understand this scientific compendium is not covered in money, and therefore you are not likely to read such things, but you might try reading a peer reviewed medical research that provides a significant body of evidence that fracking is inherently dangerous to people and their community.
    http://concernedhealthny.org/wp-content/uploads/2014/07/CHPNY-Fracking-Compendium.pdf
    Why don't you ask these people! Dennis and Tamera Hagy and sons, Jackson County, WV (Equitable gas wells 1,080 feet away)
    Exposure: Water – arsenic, lead, barium and Bis(2-ethylhexyl)phthalate, radon levels were 1,233 pCi/l with the maximum contaminant level set at 300.
    Symptoms: Neurological symptoms, headaches, rashes, and vomiting, eyes burning, oddly tired; one son spitting up blood
    or Danny and Sharon Kinney
    Location: Salem, WV
    Gas Facility: Antero Resources gas well
    Exposure: Water – arsenic at .060
    Symptoms: Unknown, replacement water or relocated; cracking house foundation
    http://www.wboy.com/story/17114653/family-suffers-contaminated-water-well-from-oil-gas-industry-on-neighbors-property
    Plus this powerful personal response:
    My parents are ranchers. They have lost water pressure at their ranch for the first time in twenty years because three of their neighbors are selling off their water to fracking companies. They were also involved in an auto accident a few years ago because the traffic has gotten progressively worse on the little state highway they retired on. We don't have the cancer clusters mapped out yet, but we will in a few decades time, we'll have the epidemiological connections with silicosis understood to a greater degree too by then; cold comfort to the people who will be suffering from it, and silicosis is a pretty awful way to die. The companies won't disclose the contents of the chemicals they inject into the ground, but they do use known carcinogens. Local communities vote to keep fracking out, yet are over-ruled by state judges, like what transpired in Fort Collins, Co. earlier this year. You quoting EPA and Energy officials is probably not the most disingenuous thing you've done (how many of them are now working for energy companies I wonder?), but sincerely if it were your family, and their livelihood was at stake, would you still call fracking safe?
    Shimkus has an incumbent protection district but he's facing a serious Democratic opponent for the first time in his new district, Eric Thorsland. Besides taking a reality-based position on climate change, Thorsland's family owns an organic farm. His website says he "believes food security and water quality issues are top priorities and has witnessed firsthand the effects of a changing climate on his farm."

    There's a clear choice between Thorsland, who supports building a long-term sustainable economy, and Shimkus who would sacrifice the regions' future for a few years of transient temp jobs.

    September 13, 2014

    Illinois Green Groups Push to Stop Fracking With All Eyes on JCAR

    I have a new blog up at Huffington Post about the latest on the Illinois fracking fight.
    The universal response from environmental groups is that Illinois must ban fracking because these rules won't protect the public. Even groups who supported the regulatory law that's designed to open the state to large scale fracking are now pushing for a ban or moratorium.


    September 9, 2014

    Thoughts on protests, activism, the NYC climate march, and why big greens aren't stopping climate change

    The trouble with letting television tell the story of our recent history is that it tends to overemphasize events designed for the camera. For example, the made-for-TV version of the civil rights struggle highlights a clip of Martin Luther King Jr. speaking in front of the Lincoln Memorial as the turning point and defining moment of the movement.

    While it was an important event, it was less visible organizing efforts across the country that did more to produce change, such as sit-ins, boycotts, protests, voter registration drives, electoral campaigning, and many other actions that disrupted local power structures.

    I fear too many activists believe the TV version of how change happens. Much of the anti-Iraq war movement never learned this lesson. Or at least they didn't act as though they did. UFPJ set strategy for most of the movement by deciding they were going to maintain their 501c3 tax exempt status, which meant swearing off electoral politics and any aggressive civil disobedience tactics that might actually disrupt the process of waging war. Or in other words, the two types of action most likely to stop the war.

    They got stuck doing one protest after another, some of which I attended and helped organize. Protest is useful but when a large majority of the public are already aware of the issue and agree with you then it's time to move beyond "raising awareness" mode and use other tools in your belt.

    I wonder if the climate change movement is making the same mistake. There's no harm in having a big climate march in New York City, other than the event's carbon footprint. It may give a burst of motivation and camaraderie to the movement. Perhaps it will be noticed by world leaders. But is it going to get much more press coverage than the largely ignored 200,000+ people I rallied with in DC right before the Iraq War started? Will it have any more impact on the direction the world is headed, which is to say, none at all? Isn't it passed time to move beyond "raising awareness" tactics with climate change? And is the big green focus on this rally motivated by the fact that 501c3 tax exempt funds can be utilized?

    Let's face it, at least half the reason there was so much focus on the Keystone XL pipeline is that 501c3 grant funds could be used since approving the pipeline is an administrative decision by the state department, as opposed to non-tax-exempt activity like lobbying Congress to pass a decent energy bill. That, plus somebody's desire to make Obama the main target because, goodness knows, the President is an all powerful figure who can make everything happen if we just convince him to. Now the oil industry has found other ways to move tar sands without Keystone XL and it turns out that Congress is an even bigger barrier to progress than Obama.

    So have fun in NYC but if you expect a rally to be a singular moment that will change the world then you're going to be disappointed. What's going to stop climate change is hard work back home. Especially in extraction regions like downstate Illinois, which big greens have largely turned their backs on.

    The first Liberty Brew & View movie screening I arranged was the fantastic documentary, Sir! No Sir! It told the story of resistance by American soldiers and draftees during the Vietnam War. By the end of the war, the military couldn't depend on whether a large portion of their soldiers would obey if ordered into battle. That's why there will never be a draft again. The war ended partly because resistance by soldiers took away the ability of American leaders to continue waging war.

    The climate fight will be won the same way. We'll win by taking away the ability of the fossil fuel industry to continue destroying a habitable climate. We accomplish that by making it more expensive and more difficult to extract and burn fossil fuels.*

    The movement made some progress on the burning side by stopping Dick Cheney's evil plan to build new coal power plants. We succeeded by driving up the cost and trouble of building new plants through a variety of legal maneuvers, delaying tactics, discouraging financing, and applying political pressure. Shutting down existing coal plants is more difficult, but increasing their costs with half a dozen new EPA rules plus local pressure is a viable strategy.

    But on the other side of the process, there's very little investment by big greens and their major grant donors to help front line communities keep fossil fuels in the ground, as scientists have warned we must.

    Instead, we've got situations like Illinois where a Democratic Governor is dramatically increasing coal mining and launching fracking. And the big green groups respond by kissing the Governor's ass and calling him a "climate champ" because they hope it will produce a better state Clean Power Plan. That strategy may eventually close some coal plants over a period of years if they aren't given more waivers, and probably to be replaced by natural gas. Meanwhile, Illinois will continue increasing coal mining for export to foreign nations, and fracking will increase carbon emissions as well.

    Rallies and greenwashing politicians who make climate change worse will not solve the crisis. Focusing on a strategy that slowly closes down coal plants in America over many years, while coal for export and fracking increase, is not going to solve the crisis. We have to take away the ability of industry to continue the crisis by increasing the cost and difficulty of getting fossil fuels out of the ground.

    We can do this with direct action that obstructs extraction activity, banning fracking, passing laws to increase the cost of mining coal, organizing opposition in impacted communities, electing our own candidates at the local and state level in extraction regions, and generally being a pain in the ass of the fossil fuel industry in any way that ups their cost of doing business.

    Currently, none of those activities are a priority for the national green groups who have their regional offices in Chicago. Hell, southern Illinois is a six hour drive away and the grant-making foundations of rich white people think the Clean Power Plan and a timid legislative agenda pushing renewables is the way to go. If anything, they repeatedly undermined the efforts of those trying to stop fracking from coming to Illinois in favor of passing weak regulation that funders like Bloomberg prefer.

    How much more expensive will it be to frack or mine coal the day after the New York climate rally? Not a damn penny.

    Those of us in coal and fracking country are the ones who will have to solve the climate crisis. We have the most skin in the game. The battle lines are in rural areas, not New York City. And at least for now, we're going to have to do it on our own.

    *Just so I'm not misconstrued or intentionally misrepresented, this blog post is not advocating violence to people or destruction of property.

    August 28, 2014

    Governor Quinn Has Baghdad Bob Moment During Fracking Protest

    My new blog about the pressure on Pat Quinn to end his support for fracking is up at Huffington Post.

    Pat Quinn had his own Baghdad Bob moment during the Illinois State Fair when a reporter asked if the Democratic base is behind his campaign. He awkwardlysmiled and claimed "we have everybody with us," while a protest in the background forced him to speak up as they shouted, "Governor Quinn come on down, anti-frackers are in town!"
    Quinn's support for fracking continues to be a problem with environmental voters, particularly downstate, as it undermines his claim to "stand with the people, not the powerful."

    While you're at it, check out this letter from the Illinois fracking movement sent to the Director of the Sierra Club asking them to show they're serious about stopping fracking. It's unacceptable for them to remain silent while industry uses Sierra Club's support for regulation to greenwash fracking and attack the movement.

    August 27, 2014

    Fracking Industry Uses Tobacco Playbook to Defend Birth Defects

    Bloomberg News reviews studies on the link between birth defects and living near fracking sites. It's compelling. Multiple studies show increased rates of congenital heart defects, low birth weight, and stillbirths.

    A spokesperson for the fracking industry propaganda outfit, Energy in Depth, responded.
    “The body of scientific knowledge has to advance gradually and you have to look at all of these things and the full spectrum. You can’t just look at this one individual or this group of studies.”
    How many studies do we need? How long will it take?
    "We also believe that until scientific research can establish what actually causes the diseases with which smoking has been statistically associated, it would be unfair to advocate any law prohibiting the sale of cigarettes"
    That's what the tobacco industry was still arguing in 1987, many years after the link between cigarettes and multiple deadly health problems was clear.

    To use another example, the fossil fuel industry continues to cast doubt on the scientific evidence behind climate change almost three decades after James Hansen first testified on the problem to Congress. There will never be enough conclusive evidence for those who profit from human suffering.

    This is the fundamental flaw with how we regulate public health and safety in the United States. Some nations use the precautionary principle that puts burden on polluters to show they can operate without harming the public. In the United States we use that approach for prescription medication but not with polluting industries.

    Several studies focus on the impacts of air emissions from fracking sites. Clearly, they aren't well regulated at the federal level. In Illinois, the fracking law doesn't address air emissions from well sites. Governor Pat Quinn and the legislature have decided that Illinoisans should be forced to participate in a potentially deadly science experiment while we wait for conclusive proof that people living nearby are harmed.

    If you want to understand how environmental justice principles apply to low-income, rural extraction regions, this is a good example. The Illinois fracking law was negotiated in closed door sessions between industry lobbyists and representatives of a few environmental groups headquartered in Chicago, hundreds of miles away from any expected well sites. They got a seat at the table by showing they're willing to compromise over the objection of environmentalists in impacted areas.

    The big green group staffers who negotiated the fatally flawed Illinois fracking law won't have to live anywhere near air emissions from wells. But some of us will. That's why the movement to stop fracking in Illinois continues to push on.

    August 7, 2014

    Who Are the Top Five Fossil Fools in Illinois Politics?

    I have a new blog up at Huffington Post.

    Illinois may be more famous for imprisoned governors, but as a coal state struggling with its energy future, some of our politicians have wacky things to say about fossil fuels. With the threatened start of fracking plus backlash to EPA proposing new rules on carbon emissions, you can expect more foolishness to come.

    Since election season is upon us, it's a good time to review the top five politicians whose uninformed and outrageous statements make them the biggest fossil fools in Illinois this year (so far).

    Find out who's on the list.

    It's also posted at Democrats for Progress and DailyKos.

    July 27, 2014

    The Southern Illinoisan Gives Up On Journalism, Bends Over For Oil & Gas Industry

    The Southern Illinoisan has a long running competition with the Belleville News-Democrat over which Illinois newspaper has the strongest bias in favor of the coal industry. So I was pleasantly surprised last year when I saw the Southern Illinoisan doing good reporting on the fracking issue, even giving frequent voice to the opposition. That changed.

    A recent article in the Southern is so ridiculous, so over the top misleading, it looks like they've given up on doing real journalism about fracking.

    Southern Illinoisans Against Fracturing our Environment (SAFE) sent out a press release last week full of facts and figures on worker safety problems in the fracking industry. Illinois' weak fracking law doesn't address the problem. The Southern fist responded with an article that gives more space to defensive responses from industry supporters than it does to citing facts and studies. That showed bias, but you won't believe what they published next!

    The Southern ran an article titled "Fracking workers: It's safe, it's good" with anecdotal stories from two workers in the industry who have witnessed non-fatal accidents at fracking sites in North Dakota. There was no mention of the fact that North Dakota now has the highest rate of deadly workplace accidents, thanks largely to the fracking industry.

    The article is no different than running anecdotal stories about two heavy smokers who lived past age 90 and failing to mention studies linking cigarettes to cancer. If it didn't hurt those two it must be safe, right? It's not journalism. It's propaganda.

    Maybe tomorrow the Southern will feature an article about two people who haven't been in deadly traffic accidents, so clearly all roads must be perfectly safe! Don't worry about those pesky rumors and studies on how many people die in auto accidents each year.

    The Southern published good coverage of issues related to fracking for a while. I've watched as their bias has grown more obvious. When hundreds of people attended the two southern Illinois public hearings on fracking, they scrubbed any mention of the repeated calls by multiple members of the public for non-violent civil disobedience to stop the industry. When Josh Fox spoke to a crowd of over 600 locals, they did no follow up story at all.

    The paper has good reporters clearly capable of doing honest journalism. I hope their professional reputations aren't irreparably damaged by the embarrassing decisions of their editors.

    People were shocked earlier this year when two southern Illinois newspapers announced they were banning letters, articles, and even paid advertisements opposed to fracking. They instituted the blackout just weeks before the public voted on a local referendum to ban fracking. In a way, I have to respect the honesty of those papers admitting to their decision. It's almost better than the Southern's attempt to maintain the facade of an honest news organization while giving people an inaccurate picture of fossil fuel news.

    The oil & gas industry have a problem. The more people learn about fracking, the more opposition grows. Too much accurate reporting resulted in a powerful anti-fracking movement. Industry already have politicians like Brandon Phelps singing their song after hundreds of thousands in campaign contributions. Now they're targeting southern Illinois news outlets that print too many pesky facts.

    A free press is essential to democracy. The oil & gas industry are attempting to rig the public debate in favor of a law that was negotiated by lobbyists behind closed doors and rushed through the legislature with less than an hour of public debate. Some legislators openly admitted knowing very little about the issue before casting their vote. This isn't just an attack on the environment. It's an attack on informed, democratic decision making.