Approximately 30 people, members of Illinois People’s Action (IPA) and supporters, visited the McLean County Chamber of Commerce on Monday to have their voice heard on the issue of fracking.
Those in attendance, festive with holiday spirit and accompanied by a jolly Santa Claus and his elves, wanted to ask the Chamber to give local environmentalists a chance to explain the economic and environmental problems with fracking. The local and statewide Chamber of Commerce has pushed fracking in recent weeks, a campaign that immediately followed large, local community events opposing the practice.
In the last few weeks, the Chamber of Commerce has pushed fracking as a potential economic boom, the evident start of their front-court press to bring the practice to Illinois. The McLean County Chamber first invited Matthew Koch – a U.S. Chamber of Commerce spokesperson for the oil and gas industry – to give the perspective of the gas industry. Then just last week, the Illinois Chamber of Commerce released a pro-fracking study, written by ISU economist David Loomis. Loomis received payment for the project by the Illinois Chamber of Commerce.
The Loomis study purports that fracking would bring a significant number of jobs and money to Illinois localities, an assertion not supported by much other research, says local environmentalist Bill Rau. (Read Bill Rau’s full report, Closer to Fantasy than Fact: The Illinois Chamber of Commerce Report on the Economic Impact of Shale Gas in Illinois.)
Interviewed by WGLT during the IPA visit to the Chamber, Bill Rau highlighted a number of problems with the Illinois Chamber of Commerce study. The following synopsis of Bill Rau’s research was provided by the Illinois People’s Action press release:
- The high volume of gas production has driven prices so low that many companies are cutting costs in an effort to not go out of business. This includes cuts in jobs.
- “The “90%” local jobs is not reflected elsewhere in the industry. Most jobs are brought in by the drilling companies (e.g. Halliburton) from the outside.
- The figures provided were based on estimations of the amount of shale that may be overestimated by a factor of 3.
- The Chamber report assumes no regulatory or environmental costs—convenient assumptions since both costs, particularly environmental, will be very high.
Illinois People’s Action Addresses the Local Chamber
Throughout IPA’s afternoon visit, McLean Co. Chamber CEO, Charlie Moore, refused to speak with IPA representatives. Mr. Moore walked through the group of local residents in his lobby and abruptly shut the door in their faces when they attempted to speak with him.
Afterward, IPA members sang anti-fracking carols in the Chamber lobby. Santa left the McLean County Chamber lumps of coal this Christmas season for its refusal to listen to perspectives other than that of the gas industry.
In the interview later posted by WGLT, in an apparent about-face and concession to Illinois People’s Action, Charlie Moore said that he would agree to having IPA’s side of the fracking story be heard by the McLean County Chamber of Commerce.
Video of IPA and Santa’s Visit