On the same day as the first results of a long-awaited and major new study on the health impacts of hydraulic fracking for natural gas were released in Pennsylvania, the troubled Illinois Environmental Council boasted of a new "environmental scorecard" that honors one of the state's biggest fracking and Big Coal legislators with a "100 percent" environmental rating.
Talk about bad fracking timing.
As the self-proclaimed "eyes, ears and voice of the Illinois environmental community," the IEC may include lead affiliates like the Sierra Club and the NRDC, but it now ranks Big Coal and fracking booster Rep. John Bradley (D-Marion) as one of the state's environmental heroes.
While residents in New York recently celebrated the departure of Chesapeake natural gas driller, and held large fracking protests during President Obama's visit last week, as nearly 1,000,000 signatures against fracking on public lands were delivered in Washington, D.C., the Illinois Environmental Council joined notorious climate change denier US Rep. John Shimkus as a big supporter of the state's loophole-ridden fracking law.
Don't tell that to Bradley's Big Coal bankrollers in southern Illinois, where he ranks one of the region's great coal and fracking champions -- or IEC's lead affiliate, the Sierra Club.
In January, the Sierra Club Heart of Illinois Group sent out a special alert to call Bradley, hailing him as a "major pro-fracker."
The skewed IEC award, in fact, stunned many in Illinois' diverse environmental community, which had been deeply divided over the backroom negotiations on an admittedly flawed regulatory bill earlier this summer. Despite Bradley's lead role, five county boards and key citizens groups in southern Illinois voted for a fracking moratorium.
"Fracking has been deeply divisive among the Illinois environmental community," said Will Reynolds, a long-time Springfield blogger and former state chair of the Sierra Club. "Giving a 100 percent rating to the pro-coal, pro-fracking chief sponsor of the fracking bill, and giving an award to the main Senate sponsor is a slap in the face at a time when the statehouse environmental groups should be working to restore their credibility with the grassroots."
Bradley, in fact, refused to sponsor a proposed moratorium -- a detail the IEC somehow failed to factor in on its 100% ranking.
IEC also seemed to leave out Bradley's headline appearance at a notorious "Stop the War on Coal" rally in West Frankfort last fall.
In November, in fact, Bradley made good on his promise at the Big Coal rally, which also featured climate change denier and coal industry CEO Bob Murray, and rammed through a legislative change in the strip mining regulatory permit process that effectively complicates legal challenges to notoriously incompetent, gutted and coal industry-biased state agencies that will also handle fracking.
A few months ago, the downstate representative also made the news for his dubious campaign expenditures on hotels in Chicago.
To be fair, the IEC has a lot on its legislative plate and is far removed from the realities of impacted fracking and coal mining communities in southern Illinois, and its oversight of Bradley may just be a slip. Led by Executive Director Jennifer Walling, the Springfield-based IEC has apparently struggled to find its footing during one of the nation's biggest coal and fracking rushes, and the decades-old regulatory machinations under state agencies.