Day 41 For Fracking Comments – Man I am getting tuckered out

But these are important technical comments. So get to it.

Day 41, 12/25/13  Merry Christmas!  Yes, we’re hoping you’ll take just a minute from your festivities to comment on the fact that IDNR violated it’s own rules with regard to the 5 hearings it held around the state. 

Topic – DEFICIENT NOTICE FOR PUBLIC HEARINGS
This comment is in response to the paragraphs of the published notices setting the dates for the public hearings on the Proposed Amendments to the Rules under the Oil and Gas Act and on the Proposed Rules under the Hydraulic Fracturing Regulatory Act.  37 Illinois Register 18081, 18081-82 (November 15, 2013); 37 Illinois Register 18097, 18099 (November 15, 2013); 37 Illinois Register 19746 (December 6, 2013); 37 Illinois Register 19747 (December 6, 2013).
Comment:
DNR did not provide the required public notice for any of the public hearings, because in each case the notice for the hearing was not published in the Illinois Register at least 20 days before the hearing.  Although the Illinois Administrative Procedure Act allows DNR to hold a public hearing, in response to a request for a hearing, less than 20 days after public notice in the Illinois Register if the notice of hearing is published in the notice of proposed rulemaking (5 ILCS 100/5-40), DNR has chosen by rule to require a minimum of 20 days’ notice.  DNR’s adopted rule for scheduling public hearings states as follows:
“The Hearing Officer shall set a time and place for hearing and shall give notice as follows, at least 20 days prior to the date of the hearing;
a) to the proponent, by mail;
b) to members of the general public, by means of a general news release and notice in the Illinois Register.”  2 Ill. Admin. Code 825.140.
The first notice of public hearings–for Chicago and Ina–was published in the Illinois Register on November 15, 2013.  But the Chicago hearing took place on November 26, 2013, and the Ina hearing took place on December 3, 2013.  Each of those hearings was held on less than 20 days’ notice.
The second notice of public hearings–for Effingham, Decatur, and Carbondale–was published in the Illinois Register on December 6, 2013.  But the Effingham hearing took place on December 16, 2013, the Decatur hearing took place on December 17, 2013, and the Carbondale hearing took place on December 19, 2013.  Each of those hearings was held on less than 20 days’ notice.
Thus, DNR’s public hearings were held in violation of its own administrative rules.  These violations deprived the citizens of a  meaningful opportunity to be heard.
The remedy for this violation is either additional hearings in these areas, each with the required minimum 20 days’ notice, or alternatively, a new First Notice with the opportunity for new public hearings and a new public comment period.
Illinois People’s Action
510 E. Washington St. Suite 309
BloomingtonIL 61701
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Frackers Love Loopholes – They will use every one they can find

So tighten them up folks.

Day 40, 12/24/13

Topic:  Serious Risk

Section 1-53(a)(4) of the Statute states that hydraulic fracturing operations “will be conducted in a manner that will protect the public health and safety and prevent pollution or diminution of any water source.”  This portion of the regulations was incorporated into subsection 245.300(c)(4) of the rules, which, although not as strict, makes clear that no permit may be issued unless the high volume horizontal hydraulic fracturing operations at issue “are reasonably expected to be conducted in a manner that will protect the public health and safety and prevent pollution or diminution of any water source.”

But Subsection 245.330(d) seems to imply that a permit modification that poses a “serious risk” to public health or the environment could nonetheless be granted without changes that eliminate that risk.

While we disagree with the loosening of the language of 1-53 the regs to 245.300 of the rules, it would be difficult to imagine that a rule that expects fracking to be conducted in a manner that will “protect the public health and safety and prevent pollution of diminution of any water source” would allow fracking to occur when a “serious risk” exists.

Revisions Needed:

At a minimum, the following language should be added to this subsection: “Modification to a permit shall not be granted unless and until the proposed action is modified so that the criteria set forth in subsection 245.300(c)(4) are met.”

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Frackers Will Bend The Law Wherever They Can – Still this is kind of a picky comment

I always thought that the challenge of posting 45 days of comments was, well challenging. That is why I confined myself to just ten comments. Anyway here it is.

 

Let’s try this again–this time with the directions on which button to click and what section to put in the dropdown box. 

As long as we’re sending out another e-mail today, would any of you be able to participate in a Comment Drop on Thursday, January 2 at IDNR?  We don’t have a specific time yet but we’re looking for at least a dozen leaders who would come out with us that day to deliver the over 10,000 comments that have been generated.  Please respond to this e-mail if you’re interested in participating.

Day 39   12/23/13

Topic:  What should be required on an application when modifications are made.

Comment:

Subsection 245.330(b)(1) states, “Sections of a permit modification application that are not the subject of a proposed deviation from an original permit are not required to be completed.”

It is entirely possible that a potential significant impact of a modification would not be the “subject of” the modification but rather a consequence of it and those portions of a permit modification should be required to be completed.

Revisions Needed:  This language in this section should be modified to state that sections “that are not impacted by” the proposed modifications need not be completed.

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Frackers Always Tell The Truth – Not

Frackers want to make big changes in their drilling plans without telling anybody. Please tell them to stop this.

 

Day 37 (11/21/13)

Topic: What constitutes a “significant deviation” in a permit and how should it be addressed with regard to the public’s right to know and comment.

Section 245.330 narrows it’s counterpart in the law and also sets up a system that keeps citizens largely in the dark about changes to permits that may well be significant.

Section 1-55(c) of the Act addresses modifications by the applicant.  It states, “If the Department determines that the proposed modifications constitute a significant deviation from the terms of the original application and permit approval, or presents a serious risk to public health, life, property, aquatic life, or wildlife, the Department shall provide the opportunities for notice, comment, and hearing required under Sections 1-45 and 1-50 of this Act.”

The statute does not define what constitutes a “significant deviation,” but the draft rules radically circumscribe the term, giving it a narrow and exclusive meaning that is found nowhere in, or supported by, the statute.

Specifically, the draft rules define significant deviation only as those modifications that “propose to:

  1. move the  well, including the horizontal well bore,
  2. add new horizontal well bores, or
  3. add length to any existing or planned horizontal well bores.”

While these circumstances would certainly constitute significant deviations, so would many others. For instance, what about a modification calls for significantly more water use or water use from a different source even if the increased use fell short of a “serious risk” to public health or the environment.

Revisions Needed:  We recommend the NRDC’s language to define a significant deviation: “A permit modification shall be treated as a significant deviation from the original permit if the proposed actions or potential impacts of those actions may differ materially from those associated with the original permit application.” If specific examples are used to further flesh out this definition, those examples must be framed non-exclusively, i.e., employing the language “including but not limited to….”

Citizens should be informed of these deviations and allowed opportunity for public comment.

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The Burden Of Illinois Fracking – It is all on us

Please spare the people of Illinois of having the burden of Fracking disasters placed on their shoulders.

 

 

There was a full house–over 200– at the Carbondale IDNR hearing last night.  That makes over 1000 concerned Illinoisans have attended IDNR hearings against the weak IDNR fracking rules–many of them providing testimony.  IDNR and JCAR, are you listening?

Today (Friday) 12/20/13) is Day 36 of the comment period.

Today’s Topic: Starting the clock over when deficiencies are identified at, or as a result of, the hearing.

Comment:

Subsection 245.270(n), allows the applicant to attempt to correct deficiencies identified at the hearing, but places no time limit on such correction.  It also doesn’t require the Department to provide public notice of such correction. As such, applicants could, in principle, provide information to the Department on Day 59 of the 60-day permit issuance period, and the public would not find out about it until long after the permit had been issued.

Revisions Needed: This provision should specify a time window for applicants to provide corrections. It should also provide that the post- hearing public comment period must remain open for a sufficient number of days after that time window in order to provide the public adequate time to meaningfully review and comment on those corrections. It would not be unreasonable for deficiencies to be viewed as an incomplete application requiring that the 60-day clock start over.

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Illinois Frackers Burden Of Proof – Its all on us

Thanks IDNR for placing the burden of proof on the people of Illinois. Maybe they should rename these regulations as the Rape and Pillage of Illinois.

 

Day 35   12/19/13   

Topic:  Burden and Standard of Proof should be on applicant not persons requesting a public hearing.

Comment:

245.270.i states that parties requesting the public hearing and, if applicable, petitioning to participate in the public hearing shall have the burden of establishing the validity of their objections and concerns through the introduction of credible evidence. The standard of proof is the preponderance of the evidence.

The provision concerning burden of proof in this subsection does not make sense in context.  In fact, it reverses the burden that otherwise applies to permit applicants; it is the permit applicant who must demonstrate that they are entitled to a permit. It should not be the hearing requestor’s burden to prove that the issues they raise are worthy of consideration.  To the extent that the person or persons requesting the hearing raise legitimate questions as to whether a permit should be issued—or issued with particular conditions—it must be the applicant’s responsibility to address those questions to the satisfaction of the Department.

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Illinois Frackers Gotta Show UP – To get their permits

But I wonder does this mean their lawyers and not the actual Company people. That has to be changed. I would say the actual owner of the company must attend the hearing, myself.

 

Day 34   12/18/13. 

Thanks to everyone who turned out last night to the Decatur hearing.  Over 400 of you came–the biggest hearing so far in the state. Your testimony was moving, powerful, and critical of the weak IDNR rules.  Let’s keep the pressure on.  Carbondale’s hearing is on Thursday (tomorrow, the 19th).  Plan to attend and give testimony!  In the meantime, please submit a comment today. 

Topic:   No permits if a permit applicant fails to appear at a hearing.

Comment:

Section  245.270(f) of the rules allows a permit to be given EVEN IF the applicant has failed to appear at a hearing.  This provision would gut the purpose of the public hearing requirement. In the event the failure was due to an emergency or circumstances beyond the applicant’s control, the hearing should be rescheduled, and the 60-day time frame should start over to accommodate that rescheduling. If the applicant cannot show good cause for failure to appear at the hearing, the application should be denied.

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Illinois Department Of Natural Resources Is Afraid – They be sceardy cats

Ya why don’t you stand up and tell the truth instead of hiding behind their hearing officers. Come out and take a chair. Raise your hand and take an oath.

 

 

Day 33   12/17/13.  Tonight is the Decatur hearing.  Please plan to attend and, if possible, testify.

Today’s Topic: Requiring the Department to Testify Under Oath at Hearings

  • Go to: http://www.dnr.illinois.gov/OilandGas/Pages/OnlineCommentSubmittalForm.aspx
  • Click the button: Subpart B: Registration and Permitting Procedures
  • In the “Section” dropdown box, click: 245.270 Public Hearings
  • Submit your comment/s (below)
  • Click “Submit”

Comment:

Section 245.270 requires the Department to appear at hearings but does not require that the Department testify.  The rules should contain an express obligation that the Department testify—and testify under oath—and be available for cross-examination. Without such testimony, a primary purpose of the hearings – to vet the permit application and ensure transparency – is gutted.

Revisions Needed:  Subsection 245.270(g)(6) should be amended to specify not merely that a representative from the  Department appear and “be given an opportunity” to provide evidence, but that the representative “shall testify under oath.” Furthermore, considering the specificity the Department requires of citizens at each hearing, the Department must be equally prepared.  In other words, the Department must provide a person or persons (with appropriate knowledge of specific areas) who will be able to address any issues that may arise at the hearing.

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Frackers Would Hold A Hearing In Chicago – When the fracking is going to happen in the Shawnee National Forest

Nobody would ever think that Wild Catters are crooks. No way!

 

Day 32   12/16/13

Today’s Topic:  Hearings should be held in the counties that will be affected

  • Go to: http://www.dnr.illinois.gov/OilandGas/Pages/OnlineCommentSubmittalForm.aspx
  • Click the button: Subpart B: Registration and Permitting Procedures
  • In the “Section” dropdown box, click: 245.270 Public Hearings
  • Submit your comment/s (below)
  • Click “Submit”

Section 245.270(b)(2) of the Rules gives the Department broad latitude regarding where to hold a hearing, including holding hearings outside the affected counties. It is imperative that the hearings be held IN the county where a well will be located. A location outside the affected county will not serve the public interest.  It could create an enormous barrier to participation by ordinary citizens, who may not have the resources, time or child care options for out-of-town travel.  Furthermore, out-of-county hearings limit the ability of ordinary citizens to call local witnesses, who may have critical information but be unable or unwilling to come to Springfield.  Finally, out of county hearings impede the practicalityfor interested neighbors to attend and observe the hearing, defeating the purpose of ensuring transparency in the permitting process.

It should not be difficult to identify locations where hearings can be held in affected counties. Courthouses, schools, and in some cases county board offices or town halls generally have space that could accommodate a hearing. Furthermore, with the availability and low cost of web-based technology, the Department should be able to appear remotely at a hearing being held in the affected county even if travel there is logistically impossible. But we posit that if it is too expensive or inconvenient for the Department to travel to hearings in counties that will be affected, then it is unfeasible to expect ordinary citizens to bear that burden by traveling to off-site counties to testify in hearings.

Solution:  Hold all hearings in the county in which a well is to be located.

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Fracking Could Cause The Mississippi To Run Backwards – And turns Springfield into Casuality Central

I participated in an emergency enactment of a possible New Madrid  quake in which St. Louis suffered major damage. This event was held in St. John Hospital’s parking lot. I was a volunteer person, who was pressed into service as gurney “pusher and puller” having no medical skills. The drill went like this. A helicopter would fly in (there were ten supplied by the Missouri and Illinois Guard) and the survivors where lifted off the helicopter on hand carried stretchers laid on the ground in a triage area. There were three treatment areas in the parking lot, one for broken bones treatable without surgery, one for moderate puncture wounds, and one for moderate trauma of many types. So I did the helicopter deal for a while which was pretty hard work. After about 10 helicopters I was pretty beat, so they put me on gurney duty which was a LOT easier. So what couldn’t be treated in the short term areas were put on gurneys (it helped if the survivors where a little ambulatory) and pushed/pulled them into the hospital to either the emergency room which got those not needing immediate surgery and the immediate surgery ones were taken to surgery on the third floor and another floor (4) which had been converted to surgical suits. The buses with refugees started arriving at noon. They did not have enough volunteers to be refugees so to simulate the scenario each seat on the bus was filled with individual supplies (personal hygiene, blankets, clothes if needed, food packets etc.)  and then the bus was driven to the State Fair Grounds where tents were being erected. This went on until 5 o’clock. I was told by one of the coordinators that he thought the activity would have gone on for at least 4 or 5 days nonstop. In this scenario there was only mild damage to Springfield and Litchfield but pretty much everything in southern Illinois and St. Louis/South Central Missouri was destroyed.

 

Day 31 of the IDNR Comment Period

Our server will be down for routine maintenance tomorrow so we are sending the comment for tomorrow (Sunday)–a little early.  You won’t want to miss commenting on this one:

Topic: The risk of large scale environmental disasters

Section 1-53 of the regulatory bill requires that fracking operations be conducted in a “manner that will protect the public health and safety and prevent pollution.”  And yet, the rules do not address the risk of large-scale and widespread environmental disasters that can occur as a result of fracking in the Wabash Valley and New Madrid Earthquake Zones or in the Illinois 100-year floodplain.

The New Madrid Earthquake zone has been known to historically cause “major” earthquakes of over 7 on the Richter magnitude scale.  The Illinois Emergency Management Agency itself identifies these areas with its most severe earthquake zone ratings of “Destructive” and “Ruinous.” An earthquake of these magnitudes, compounded with fracking and injection wells spread throughout the affected zone is quite literally, a recipe for disaster.

Furthermore earthquakes of these magnitudes can easily damage fracking wells, open air pits, pipelines, injection wells – causing toxic and radioactive fracking fluids to pour out into the ground and contaminate the soil and groundwater sources of hundreds of thousands of Illinoisans. Even Ohio Governor, John Kasich, a fracking advocate, has issued an executive order requiring operators to conduct seismic studies before the state will issue well permits.

Similarly, allowing any sort of fracking operations to occur within the Illinois 100 year floodplain zone is also asking for disaster. The environmental devastation caused by the recent floods in Colorado is a case in point. Inundated oil pads, flooded wells, overturned tanks, and ruptured lines were just a few of problems experienced in Colorado as a result of wide-scale flooding. A damaged oil tank dumped 5,250 gallons of oil into the South Platte River south of Milliken, Colorado on 9/18/13 during the flood.   The South Platte River, extends to Nebraska and then filters into the Ogallala Aquifer which serves much of the middle of the country.

Open-air pits—which the Rules allow—are particularly vulnerable in a flood. When open-air pits fill with water, there is nothing covering the surface to prevent the fracking wastewater from spilling out of the pit and into the floodwaters, exposing every living thing downstream to the chemicals, brine, radioactivity, etc. that was in the pit.

  • Solution:
    • Avoid fracking in active seismic zones and flood plains.

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