By Rev. Dr. Clare Butterfield, Director, Faith in Place and the Illinois Interfaith Power & Light Campaign
When Faith in Place staff first looked at a map of Illinois that showed where the coal and shale deposits are located in our state, we were struck by just how widely spread they
are. Almost all of Illinois has a shale shelf under it, and the coal deposits stretch almost as far. If all of that shale were to be explored for natural gas extraction it would have a profound impact on the agricultural activity and the water supply of our state.
It struck us that a good time to figure out how to manage the issue of fracking in Illinois would be before it started. And so we first set to educating ourselves, about the process, about the problems, about how other states were starting to address it. Then we started educating others. For the last three years, but particularly this year, we held workshops across Illinois, from Carbondale to Chicago, to help people of faith understand the issue and its implications. Once a bill emerged, we also worked to help our constituents in the faith community understand the nuances of the issues and the pros and cons of the different legislative proposals.
This year the Illinois General Assembly did pass a piece of legislation that contains a number of important restrictions on how fracking is conducted in Illinois. With the Governor’s signature, that bill has now become law. We helped members of our partner congregations to understand that the process was about to begin here, and how we might respond to that as people of faith and as careful stewards of the water resources of Illinois.
We’re not thrilled that fracking has come to Illinois, but we are relieved that we have the strongest set of restrictions on the books of any state. Clearly, we have more work to do to get our economy to a place that no longer relies on fossil fuels. We believe that is what will ultimately liberate us from this kind of dilemma.