Tag Archives: native plants

The endangered Marshall Strawberry and the endangered Chicago native plant front yard

May 12, 2013

What is the “Marshall Strawberry” and why should you care?

The Food and Agricultural Organization of the United Nations (FAO) estimates that since the beginning of this century, about 75% of the genetic diversity of agricultural crops worldwide has been lost. According to this FAO article

“Genetic erosion” refers to the loss of genetic diversity between and within populations of the same species. Nearly all of the 158 countries that submitted background reports for FAO’s State of the World Report on Plant Genetic Resources identify genetic erosion as a serious problem. In China, for example, nearly 10,000 wheat varieties were cultivated in 1949. By the 1970s, only about 1,000 varieties were in use…In Mexico, genetic erosion of maize is well documented. Only 20% of the maize varieties reported in 1930 are now known in Mexico.

The primary reason for the loss of crop genetic diversity is that commercial, uniform varieties are replacing traditional varieties – especially in the South’s centres of diversity. When farmers abandon their community-bred varieties to plant new ones, the old varieties become extinct.

This unwise trend can be laid directly at the feet of Big Agriculture, which, in its quest for higher yields, has pushed aside the unique characteristics of traditional and native seeds. USC Canada calls biodiversity our “insurance policy” against catastrophic food losses–the more varieties we have in the mix, the less likely that any one disease or insect can wreak havoc on a crop.

Which brings us to the Marshall Strawberry. In 2004, this variety was described by Slow Food USA and the RAFT alliance in 2004 as one of the top ten endangered foods in the country. This Slow Food blog post quotes the first RAFT publication, which says it was once known as “the finest eating strawberry in America”: “exceedingly handsome, splendidly flavored, pleasantly sprightly, aromatic and juicy”. No less a figure than James Beard, the father of the American gourmet food industry, proclaimed it the tastiest berry ever.

The origin of the berry starts with a man named Marshall (surprise!) Marshall F. Ewell of Marshfield, Massachusetts produced it in 1880, and introduced it in 1883. It was widely grown in Washington, Oregon and California until as recently as the 1960s when it was phased out. Why? According to the Marshall Strawberry website, it was due to its “modest production, delicacy and and therefore incompatibility with modern industrialized agricultural practices.” (See Big Ag reference above.) By 2007, the last remaining plants existed as a single clone at the USDA’s Germplasm Repository in Corvallis, Oregon.

Enter Leah Gauthier, an intermedia and relational artist who lives and works in Bloomington, Indiana. Again from the Marshall Strawberry site:

In 2007, while in graduate school in Boston , Leah requested some runners from the scientists at Corvallis. Since she was growing them for food and not for research and also returning them to their native east coast, they generously and enthusiastically FedExed her several baby Marshalls, and it was love at first sight. Three plants took from those first runners, and since then they have traveled with Leah to New York City and Bloomington, Indiana. Now hundreds are healthy, happy and making more! She’s working on a permanent home for the Marshall in Maine, and meanwhile would love to share this delicate and rare plant with other enthusiastic growers.

That includes people in the Chicago area. She has been working with Lisa Hilgenberg at the Chicago Botanic Garden to get the berry propagated in the Midwest. And I’ll be talking to her today about how some of you might get your hands on this lucious fruit.

Leah is about to make a journey to Chicago next week and she is considering arranging for local pick up (local TBD) on the “shop page” on the website. The cost would be $30 per plant instead of the usual $65, so you might want to get in line for a couple of these babies. Each numbered plant comes in a handmade container, suitable for gift giving, along with a certificate of authenticity and signature of the artist.

Click here
to join Leah’s emailing list and receive her quarterly newsletter and here to join her facebook page for more frequent updates.

Another environmentalist caught in Chicago’s “weed law” trap

You might remember the saga of Kathy Cummings, the gardener who came in first place for “Most Naturalized City Garden” in the Mayor’s Landscape Awards Program in 2004. Then, in October of last year, she was cited by the Department of Streets and Sanitation for being in violation of a city weed ordinance and she was fined $640.

She was on my show twice at the beginning of the year to talk about the matter and to tell me that she had decided to appeal her violation (at the cost of another $317). Her court case comes up on May 21. Meanwhile, the City continues to issue tickets left and right, seemingly regardless of whether or not the home owners have a plan for their landscapes.

Allow me to introduce you to a woman named Nance Klehm. If you are not familiar with her, here are some of her credentials, courtesy of a site called Spontaneous Vegetation:

Nance Klehm is a steward of the earth. She is an ecological systems designer, landscaper, horticultural consultant, and permacultural grower, as well as an in demand consultant, speaker, and teacher. She is respected internationally for her work on land politics and growing for fertility.

Nance has been featured in Time Magazine , the Utne Reader, the Chicago Tribune , Reuters news service, on the MSN Money website, and many other publications and media outlets. She has been interviewed extensively about her work including spots by American Public Media’s Weekend America program, KRCL in Salt Lake City, BBC Radio Canada , Chicago Public Radio , and KBOO in Portland, Oregon.

Nance has lectured recently at the Museum of Contemporary Art, the Hammer Museum in Los Angeles, the University of Cincinnati, and the Canadian Centre for Architecture in Montreal. She has taught at the University of California – Los Angeles, Northwestern University in Evanston, Illinois, and Dartington College in the United Kingdom, as well as for countless community groups worldwide. She writes a regular column for Arthur magazine. In addition, Nance was included in the books Radical Homemakers (by Shannon Hayes), Participatory Autonomy (edited by Rick Gribenas), and The Revolution Will Not Be Microwaved: Inside America’s Underground Food Movements (by Sandor Katz).

There’s more, actually, but it’s already an embarrassment of accomplishments. Oh, and by the way, Nance Klehm has also been hit with a $640 file for growing “weeds” on her parkway. So I ask this question, “Do you think that Nance Klehm is likely to grow nuisance plants on her property?” Just askin’.

She joins me on the show today to talk about her situation. Meanwhile, I talked to another “victim” yesterday–a business owner who was ticketed for the same ticket, even though his plants vegetables and they’re in containers! Really? He declined to be on the show until he learns more about his “violation.”

Meanwhile, Kathy Cummings has been on a one-woman crusade to fight what seems to be arbitrary enforcement of an arbitrary law. She has gathered some like-minded people to work on this issue and last month she sent me an update:

Re our meeting Saturday, my attorney Jim, found ticketing weeds and other types of ticketing happening all over the country. Many municipalities are in a fiscal crisis, desperate for revenue. Politicians not wanting to hurt their chances for re-election by raising taxes, have been approving increasing fines. It’s the new way to create revenue and keeps them under the radar at election time.

[Chicago] City Council in 2011 unanimously (49 to 0) approved increasing the amount property owners could be ticketed for weed violations. It tripled and is now a $600 minimum.  My Adm. Law officer told me he was giving me the “lowest fine,” said as if he were giving me a gift.

From the city responses to FOIAs I sent, since 2008, there’s been a HUGE increase, every year, in the amount of City revenue earned through weed ticketing. The city may collect almost $13 million for weeds, i.e., 7-28-120(a) this year.

From Kathy’s FOIA (Freedom of Information Act) requests, she received the following information about the number of tickets issued by the City of Chicago:

Mrs. Cummings,

This letter is in response to the Freedom of Information Act (“FOIA”) request received by the Department of Administrative Hearings for the above requested ALJ.

2008 there were 4,779 violations filed for Municipal Code Section 7-28-120(a).
2009 there were 5,522 violations filed for Municipal Code Section 7-28-120(a).
2010 there were 10,798 violations filed for Municipal Code Section 7-28-120(a).
2011 there were 11,895 violations filed for Municipal Code Section 7-28-120(a).
2012 there were 11,104 violations filed for Municipal Code Section 7-28-120(a).
2013 through January 31 there were 1,659 violations filed for Municipal Code Section 7-28-120(a).

[Italics in bold are mine.]

I was struck by two things in looking at the numbers. First, the increase in fines started in 2010, during the Richard M. Daley administration, probably in response to the downturn in the economy. Second, which I have noted in bold and italics, based on the January numbers for 2013, the City is on a pace to issue almost 20,000 “weed” tickets this year, a 79% increase.

As I have mentioned before, these fines seem inconsistent with the City’s own Chicago Sustainable Backyards Program, which promotes growing native plants.

Nance Klehm has her own take on all of this:

I am interested in fighting this subjective law with a ridiculously steep fine in the broadest way by getting many people behind it PLUS a darn good lawyer. Everyone is scared (I have been contacted by chicken owners, eco-punks, community gardeners, etc.) and there is nothing that will stop me getting ticketed again for the ‘hippo’ in the parkway or in my yard that only the writer of the ticket and hearing judge could see.  When I asked “where are the weeds?” I wasn’t shown. Just told they were there. How can I remove or take care of that is being interpreted as such when I am not shown? I just have trees and shrubs in the parkway – my list of established plant material that I presented in court was argued as irrelevant by the prossecuter. My stated background as a horticulturalist landscaper and designer was ignored.

Just like a Kafka novel. I thought I was going insane.

Spring plant sales continue

Last week, I briefly mentioned some of the plant sales that are happening in the area over the next few weeks. Here you go:

May 12, 10am – 4pm – The Peterson Garden Project Plant and Bake Sale, Peterson Garden Project’s Learning Center, 4642 N. Francisco, Chicago, IL (adjacent to Francisco Brown Line stop). All proceeds from the sale will benefit Peterson Garden Project learning programs. Seedlings will be locally-grown, organic, heirloom herb and vegetable varietals hand-selected by Peterson Garden Project for growing in Chicago. Baked goods will be hand made from local Chicago pastry chefs and bakeries. BYOB (Bring Your Own Bag)

May 12, 10am – 2pm – Paseo Prairie Garden Plant Sale 2614 N. Milwaukee, Chicago, IL Perennials, Organic Vegetables and Herbs, Native Plants Native Illinois/Midwest plants are eligible for the on-site 50% rebate from the City of Chicago Sustainable Backyards Program FOR CHICAGO RESIDENTS

May 18, 9am-1pm – Perennial Divide Plant Sale  - P. Holt (773) 412-1232 2260 W. 108thPlace, Chicago Epimedium, Monarda, Black Cohosh, Hosta Varieties, Solomon’s Seal Sundrops, Brunnera, Pulmonaria, Bearded & Japanese Iris, Lamium, Wild Ginger, Sweet Woodruff, Stella del Oro Daylily, Archangel, Coneflower, Rose Campion, Hakone Grass, Ribbon Grass, Cupflower and more

May 17 (9am – 6pm) & 18 (9am – 4pm)
Hyde Park Garden Fair – Chicago’s Oldest Community Garden Sale – Annuals, Container Plants, Groundcover, Hanging Baskets, Herbs, House Plants, Perennials, Shrubs-Vines-Roses, Vegetables, Wildflowers, Fall Fair – Sale Held at Hyde Park Shopping Center, 55th Street and South Lake Park, Chicago, IL 60615

May 18 & 19, 10am to 2pm each day – Kilbourn Park Organic Green House Plant Sale. More than 150 varieties of organically grown vegetables, herbs, and flowers. Cash only. Help them recycle/reuse:  Please bring your own plastic flats or cardboard boxes to hold your plants. If you have extras from last year, bring them to share with other shoppers. Here’s the plant list.

May is Illinois Invasive Species Awareness Month

And while we’re on the subject of keeping our natural areas healthy, I just want to remind you that May is Illinois Invasive Species Awareness Month. Educational events, field days, hay-wagon tours, workshops, presentations, volunteer workdays, ‘Garlic Mustard Challenges’, training events, and interpretive hikes are just some of the different types of events that have been held as part of ISAM in the past.

If you are planning to host work days and garlic pulls, please contact Cathy McGlynn, coordinator for the Northeast Illinois Invasive Plant Partnership, at 847-242-6423 or cathy.mcglynn@niipp.net so that she can post your events on the NIIPP website.

Natives, organics and conservation in McHenry County

May 5, 2013

Taking the show on the road to McHenry County

If you’re a fan of native plants and you’re in the vicinity of Crystal Lake, Illinois on Sunday morning, you might want to consider stopping by McHenry County College at 8900 US Hwy 14 as the Wildflower Preservation and Propagation Committee (WPPC) holds its 2013 Native Plant Sale.

Exactly what is this group with the unwieldy name? They are a non-for-profit organization dedicated to:

  • Promoting the use of native plants in the landscape through preservation, propagation, and education
  • Advocating the conservation of open space, natural landscapes, wildlife habitat, scenic resources, and water in McHenry County and neighboring areas for the benefit of the general public
  • Engaging in and otherwise promoting the scientific study of and educating the public regarding local natural resources

Although the sale doesn’t start until noon, I will be broadcasting my show from the cafeteria of the college, where the action will be happening.

The sale is only three hours long, but what a wealth of plant material is available! In general, prairie plants and grasses will go for $ 2.50, while woodland plants and ferns are $3.00 to $6.00 There are more than 150 species available for every environment–prairie, savanna, woodland and wetland. To get the full list of plants, click here.

In addition, organic heirloom garden vegetables and herbs from W & M Landcorp Organic Nursery, and Native Trees and Shrubs from Ohana Farms are available.

I have to thank the WPPC’s Nancy Gonsiorek for the opportunity to bring The Mike Nowak Show to this venue. Several years ago, I spoke at their Natural Landscaping Seminar, but I have not had the chance to attend the Native Plant Sale.

Nancy will help walk me through the plant sale and the good work of the WPPC. But she has also helped to put together a great line up of guests. Here they are.

Rich Tobiasz
You know things are going to be interesting when your first guest is not only an organic gardener, but has been Fire Chief of nearby Spring Grove for 20 years. Rich Tobiasz and his wife Wendy live on five acres that they call Evergreen Oasis Farm. Though it is zoned for agricultural use, they are surrounded for the most part by a later-developed subdivision.

Along with 56 species of trees (at last count), there are gardens that include a fruit orchard, a small fruit area, grapes (for wine, jam, juice and eating), an herb garden, three vegetable gardens, an English garden, a Japanese contemplative garden, a bulb garden, and some perennial beds…all organic. But that’s not all. They also have a barn with 6 sheep for wool (Wendy spins and knits), 6 goats (milk and I make cheese), a chicken coop with 25 laying hens.

Rich says that the operation is mostly sustainable from the standpoint that they make their own compost, fertilizer and food–and house is passive solar! Even though they import hay, they try to minimize other inputs. They compost their own manure for fertilizer, not to mention growing heirloom plants so they can save the seeds.

Sounds pretty sustainable to me.

Cindy Skrukrud
Cindy Skrukrud is Clean Water Advocate for Illinois Chapter of the Sierra Club. She’s been on my show before to talk about issues like the proposal to put an open pit frac sand mine outside of Starved Rock State Park. Today, however, she’ll talk about how native plants can help address the nutrient pollution problem in Illinois rivers, lakes and streams.

That pollution–excess nitrogen and phosphorus–comes primarily from three sources:

  • Agricultural Runoff contributes a significant amount of nutrients to our waters via direct runoff from soils enriched with fertilizers and animal manure.
  • Sewage Discharges and Combined Sewer Overflows: Many sewage treatment plants do not remove nutrients from their treated effluent before it is discharged into waterways. Studies estimate that 47% of the phosphorus in Illinois rivers comes from sewage effluent. In addition, some cities, like Chicago, store runoff in the same system as the city’s sewage, known as a combined sewer. During storms, these sewer systems can become overwhelmed and overflow a mixture of stormwater and untreated sewage.
  • Urban Surface Runoff picks up nutrients from private lawns and gardens, thus introducing more nutrients into our rivers, streams and lakes.

You can find out more about what you can do to keep are lakes and streams cleaner by clicking onto this newsletter from the Illinois Sierra Club that outlines Reduction Strategies for Homeowners.

Cindy is also a founding member of Friends of Hackmatack National Wildlife Refuge, which takes us to our next guests:

Nancy Williamson and Steve Byers.
They are also founding members of Friends of Hackmatack. Nancy works for the Illinois Department of Natural Resources (IDNR) and Steve was the long time McHenry County coordinator for the Illinois Nature Preserves Commission.

In case you missed it, the Hackmatack National Wildlife Refuge was established in November of 2012 on 11,200 acres of land that straddle Illinois and Wisconsin. A couple of things make the refuge interesting–among them, its proximity to both the Chicago and the Milwaukee metropolitan areas, and that the property is noncontiguous. In fact, if you look at a map, you see that it is basically donut-shaped. However, this land includes tallgrass prairies, wetlands and oak savanna areas.

The refuge will be a home for 109 species of animals — including birds, fish, mussels, reptiles and one amphibian — and 47 plants, and will also proviide outdoor recreation opportunities. What began as a dream among forward-thinking environmentalists in 2004, is now moving forward.

Lisa Haderlein
Lisa is the Executive Director of The Land Conservancy of McHenry County. Since 1991, The Land Conservancy has helped protect over 1900 acres of McHenry County’s prairies, wetlands and woodlands by working with private landowners, communities and other partners. They do this by direct acquisition of property (through purchase or donation), or the establishment of conservation easements. When these sites are taken under care, it is with the intention that they will be protected on behalf of the community in perpetuity.

One of the initiatives of The Land Conservancy is Project Quercus. Project Quercus was to explore options to protect, preserve and regenerate the oak woods. Project Quercus is a diverse coalition that brings together public and private, government, corporate and non-profit interests, working collaboratively to create solutions to the problem of oak woodland loss.

A little more than four years ago, TLC also began the Oak Keepers. The vast majority (83%) of the county’s remaining oaks are on private land. If these trees are going to continue to be a significant part of the landscape, maintaining them on private land will be essential. The idea for the Oak Keepers ® program arose from recognition that there is a need to understand what the condition of the remaining oak woods are today, to begin building relationships with oak woodland landowners, and to give more local residents the skills they need to evaluate oak woods.

Speaking of spring plant sales…

Just because you can’t get out to McHenry County doesn’t mean that you can’t still pick up some spring plants for your garden. Doug Wood from the Wicker Park Garden Club sent out a list of area plant sales that are happening over the next couple of weeks:

May 11 & 12, 10am – 2pm – Paseo Prairie Garden Plant Sale 2614 N. Milwaukee, Chicago, IL Perennials, Organic Vegetables and Herbs, Native Plants Native Illinois/Midwest plants are eligible for the on-site 50% rebate from the City of Chicago Sustainable Backyards Program FOR CHICAGO RESIDENTS

May 11, 10am – 3pm Lurie Garden Plant Sale - A variety of perennials and grasses to provide interest throughout the seasons, as well as food and shelter for local fauna. All proceeds support Lurie Garden public programs.  The event also includes tours, hands-on gardening tips, plant-based crafts for kids, face painting, activities by local organizations and more. Quart size plants cost $5 and gallons cost $10. Please bring your own bags or boxes to transport your plants Here’s the PlantList

May 11 and May 18, 9am-1pm – Perennial Divide Plant Sale  - P. Holt (773) 412-1232 2260 W. 108thPlace, Chicago Epimedium, Monarda, Black Cohosh, Hosta Varieties, Solomon’s Seal Sundrops, Brunnera, Pulmonaria, Bearded & Japanese Iris, Lamium, Wild Ginger, Sweet Woodruff, Stella del Oro Daylily, Archangel, Coneflower, Rose Campion, Hakone Grass, Ribbon Grass, Cupflower and more

May 17 (9am – 6pm) & 18 (9am – 4pm)
Hyde Park Garden Fair – Chicago’s Oldest Community Garden Sale – Annuals, Container Plants, Groundcover, Hanging Baskets, Herbs, House Plants, Perennials, Shrubs-Vines-Roses, Vegetables, Wildflowers, Fall Fair – Sale Held at Hyde Park Shopping Center, 55th Street and South Lake Park, Chicago, IL 60615

May 18 & 19, 10am to 2pm each day – Kilbourn Park Organic Green House Plant Sale. More than 150 varieties of organically grown vegetables, herbs, and flowers. Cash only. Help them recycle/reuse:  Please bring your own plastic flats or cardboard boxes to hold your plants. If you have extras from last year, bring them to share with other shoppers. Here’s the plant list.

May is Illinois Invasive Species Awareness Month

And while we’re on the subject of keeping our natural areas healthy, I just want to remind you that May is Illinois Invasive Species Awareness Month. Educational events, field days, hay-wagon tours, workshops, presentations, volunteer workdays, ‘Garlic Mustard Challenges’, training events, and interpretive hikes are just some of the different types of events that have been held as part of ISAM in the past.

If you are planning to host work days and garlic pulls, please contact Cathy McGlynn, coordinator for the Northeast Illinois Invasive Plant Partnership, at 847-242-6423 or cathy.mcglynn@niipp.net so that she can post your events on the NIIPP website.

Protecting native plants, regulating fracking and measuring lake levels

January 6, 2013

Fighting for the right to grow native plants in Chicago

If you’ve listened to my show in the past couple of weeks or you follow me on this page or on the social media, you know of the plight of Kathy Cummings. She is the gardener who came in first place for “Most Naturalized City Garden” in the Mayor’s Landscape Awards Program in 2004. Fast forward to October of 2012, when that very same garden was cited by the Department of Streets and Sanitation for being in violation of a city weed ordinance and she was fined $640. Things change, I guess.

Last week, Kathy and I were joined on my show by Suzanne Malec-McKenna, former commissioner of the former Chicago Department of the Environment and currently Director of the Regional Trees Initiative for The Morton Arboretum and senior counsel for energy and the environment at Jasculca Terman and Associates, Inc.

Kathy talked about her plans to appeal the $640 fine, which would cost her another $317. It was at that point that Suzanne offered to pay for half of that fee. I said I would pay for the other half. But my great listeners stepped up, too, and by the end of the day I had about half a dozen people who wanted to chip in. I haven’t worked out exactly how that is going to happen yet, so stay tuned.

Meanwhile, I have been in touch with Kathy, who headed to the Clerk of the Circuit Court of Cook County the very next day to file for the appeal. She reports that the clerk will send her information about her appeal sometime within the next three weeks.

Cummings3

I wrote last week that the fine seemed inconsistent with the City’s own Chicago Sustainabile Backyards Program, which promotes growing native plants. The Center for Neighborhood Technology (CNT) is now responsible for running that program, so Kathy contacted Ryan Wilson, who is Stormwater Program Manager for the Wetrofit™ and Sustainable Backyards efforts. She wanted to know if the name of the program was to be taken literally, that is to say, could natives be planted only in backyards. She also asked for a list of recommended natives, and the list of land-based invasive species that are banned in Chicago. Wilson responded:

Our program does not differentiate between front, back, or side yard, despite the confusing name. The intent is to incentivize residents to install native plants on their private property.

To clarify, there is not an “Approved” list of native plants, there is a “recommend” list that included examples of native plants that qualify for a rebate from our program. It is not a comprehensive list. It lists two milkweeds, Swamp Milkweed & Butterfly Milkweed.

All resources for our program are listed on the website [here], but I have attached the invasive species list and recommend native plants list to this email in case the link does not work:

Here are the documents to which he refers:

2012-11-16_11-39-31_400

 

Wilson mentions milkweed because it is one of the plants that are at issue here. Kathy says that there are milkweed plants, and although she says that they are on her neighbor’s property, not hers, they are common milkweed (Asclepias syriaca), not swamp milkweed (Asclepias incarnata) or butterfly milkweed (Asclepias tuberosa).

The ordinance that she is allegedly in violation of states that the vegetation cannot be on average, more than ten inches high. That would make it tough to grow common milkweed, which many people have a bias against anyway. Ironically, however, Kathy wrote to me:

Yesterday my “Certificate of Appreciation” from www.MonarchWatch.org arrived for being a Monarch Waystation to provide milkweeds, nectar plants and shelter for monarchs throughout their annual cycle of reproduction and migration.

This, while she’s waiting to hear whether she will be forced to chop down the waystation.

Finally, I would be remiss if I didn’t mention that I wrote to Chicago Chief Sustainability Officer Karen Weigert about the whole hullabaloo. She sent me a brief response:

Thanks for your note and voicemail. I am doing a little investigating on the topic.

The plot thickens. Stay tuned…literally.

Will fracking in Illinois come with or without tough regulations?

A lot of eyes have been on Springfield, which is wrapping up its veto session in the next few days. While there are many issues that are making headlines, including the seemingly endless wrangling about pension reform, Illinois environmentalists have been waiting to see if anything will happen with SB 3280, the so-called Fracking Moratorium Bill.

At the moment, Illinois has no law regulating the procedure, even as property is apparently being scooped up downstate in anticipation of a fracking boom. However, with that boom comes the potential for contaminated water, air and other unforseen consequences, due to the litany of chemicals that are used in the process.

A number of groups, including the Illinois Chapter of the Sierra Club, have been pushing for passage of SB 3280, which would delay approval of Illinois fracking operations until robust regulations can be written. Among the measures that Sierra Club would like to see in any legislation:

  • Chemical disclosure–before fracking–of exactly what chemicals are being used in the frack.
  • Baseline groundwater testing before the frack and following monitoring afterwards.
  • Water withdrawal plans.
  • An adequate public notice and appeal process for frack well permits.
  • Adequate setbacks from water supplies, including water wells, streams, ponds and lakes.
  • Prohibition on the use of toxic chemicals such as BTEX chemicals (benzene, toluene, ethylbenzene, and xylene).
  • Prohibition of storing wastewater in open pits.
  • Treating  fracking waste as hazardous waste.
  • Ending clean air act exemptions for fracking sites.

The oil and gas industry protests that it already has these safeguards in mind. But Henry Henderson of the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) points to the experiences in other states, where water has been fouled while the promised jobs did not materialize.

If you ask me, it should be a no-brainer to take a breath and make sure that the water quality in a state that does so much farming should be protected. Orgininally SB 3280 would have delayed fracking operations until June 1, 2014. Unfortunately, that date got moved up to June 1, 2013 and, given how slowly the wheels of lawmaking grind in Springfield, who knows when–or if–the bill will pass.

The NRDC’s Josh Mogerman stops by this morning to see where we stand in regard to fracking in Illinois. He will also talk about a fascinating–and disturbing–article he wrote for Chicagoist a few weeks back and which I saw thanks to a listener who sent me a link. It seems that our lack of rainfall is causing the level of the Great Lakes to drop to such a degree that it could end up undoing one of the great engineering feats of the 20th Century–the reversing of the Chicago River.

Hey, don’t look at me! Or Josh. No less than the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has this possibility on its radar.

Never a dull environmental moment, eh?