Saline County resident Dayna Conner, from Stonefort, is not alone in her desire to have an audience with Illinois lawmakers on the subject of proposed hydraulic fracturing in southern Illinois.
Conner and two others began a sit-in at Gov. Pat Quinn’s office Tuesday morning, returning Wednesday as they sought an audience with the governor to protest the possible passage of the Illinois Hydraulic Fracturing Regulatory Act.
“For 18 months people in Southern Illinois can’t get an audience with Governor Quinn,” Conner is quoted saying in a Harrisburg paper, The Daily Register. “I’m sitting with the intention of meeting Governor Quinn and expressing my concern about fracking in Illinois.”
On Monday, Johnson County became the fifth down-state county to support a statewide moratorium on hydraulic fracturing joining Pope, Hardin, Union and Jackson counties. The cities of Carbondale, Murphysboro, Alto Pass and Carlyle, have also adopted measures supporting a statewide moratorium on hydraulic fracturing, according to Southern Illinoisans Against Fracturing our Environment.
The group of protesters claim the regulatory bill “was brokered with the industry behind closed doors” and they instead seek the passage of bills that would allow for a two-year moratorium while environmental impact and public health studies could be completed. On Tuesday, the Illinois House Executive Committee unanimously approved to send the Regulatory Act to the House floor for a vote, which SAFE says Quinn plans to sign once it reaches his desk.
Johnson County Board of Commissioners debated for months on whether or not the county would support the statewide moratorium, which is largely a symbolic act as the resolution has no regulatory powers. Board Chairman Jeff Mears said in all of the time the board has debated signing a letter of support it has not heard from any of its state representatives. Mears said he hopes to hear from lawmakers soon.
“I hope so, because at this point, communication has been no; I mean nothing,” Mears said Monday after the board passed the moratorium resolution. “I think that is pretty disappointing. I hope they feel free to inform us on anything.”
Illinois Hydraulic Fracturing Regulatory Act sponsor Rep. John Bradley, D-Marion, did not respond to emails from the Goreville Gazette requesting comments on Johnson County’s Town Hall Meeting held in Goreville May 8 to discuss hydraulic fracturing. The county approved the forum in March and set the date in April, but was uncertain if Bradley received an “official” invitation. Mears said he believed the forum helped the board come to its decision to support the moratorium.
Representatives from both the oil and gas industry and moratorium supporters sat on panels and answered audience members’ questions at the town hall, which was moderated by Johnson County economic development director Ron Duncan and put together by the University of Illinois Extension office in Vienna. Nearly 100 people signed in to a meeting that drew regional media attention with all of the local television networks in attendance.
“I guess [it was because] we were the only ones who hadn’t taken a stand for or against it,” Mears said of the media attention. “So, that kind of put us as a variable. It really surprised me.”
While there is no word yet of a house vote on SB1715, protestors continue to sit outside Quinn’s office looking for an audience with the governor, even after two were arrested on charges of trespass to state property.
According to SAFE, protester Angie Viands joined Connor in refusing to vacate in their pursuit of speaking with the governor about putting a stop to hydraulic fracturing in Illinois. Both were arrested, released and later resumed their protest with Connor telling The Daily Register she would “maintain her spot for ‘as long as it takes.’”