A bruising fracking debate

March 24, 2013

A fracking moratorium setback and a composting victory–and the environmental community turns on itself

This was a week when anti-fracking forces hoped to put the breaks on that industry in the state of Illinois. The Illinois General Assembly debated on both fracking moratorium and fracking regulatory bills, though no billof them made it out of committee. Well, the truth is that a couple of the bills were sent to sub-committees, where they will languish. That’s how things work in state government.

HB2615 (the regulatory bill) and HB3086 (moratorium and task force) failed in the House Revenue and Finance Committee. SB1418 (moratorium and task force) did not escape the Senate Energy Committee. By the way, if you want a good overview of the fracking issue in Illinois, go to this excellent overview at Chicago’s Progressive Talk, put together by Our Town stalwart Fred Newson.

This followed a week in which it appeared that House Speaker Michael Madigan was coming out in favor of a fracking moratorium. At this point, it’s hard to determine whether that was indeed the case or if it was just a political maneuver to get the oil and gas companies to support a tax structure–which the parties agreed to the very next day. Mission accomplished.

Meanwhile, environmentalists marched in front of the James R. Thompson Center in Chicago on Friday, to continue to push for a statewide moratorium on the procedure. Some of those same people are unhappy with some organizations–the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) , the Illinois Chapter of the Sierra Club, the Illinois Environmental Council and others in the environmental movement for working on the so-called “regulatory bill” rather than putting all of their energy into the push for an outright moratorium.

In fact, this displeasure is on its way to becoming–or is possibly already–a serious schism among enviornmentalists in the state and has led to some soul searching.

To talk about both the fracking issue and the division in the ranks, I welcome Jennifer Walling from the Illinois Environmental Council, Jen Hensley from the Illinois Chapter of the Sierra Club and Tabitha Tripp from Southern Illinoisans Against Fracturing Our Environment.

However, it’s not all bad news out of Springfield. Jennifer Walling reports that amendments to two bills both passed out of committee. Should these changes to the bills pass, it will be easier to do composting in the state. She writes:

I am pleased to share with you amendments to HB2335 and HB3319 .  Click the links to view… Here’s what they do.

HB2335 – Allows compost piles of up to 25 cubic yards to be exempt from a permit.  Among other things, this will finally mean that community gardens can have composting operations that bring in materials from off site!
– the 1/8 mile setback from residences is removed for the city of Chicago for permitted facilities.
– The on farm composting exemption has been extended to urban and suburban areas.  Urban and suburban farms will be able to compost on up to 2% of their property with materials brought in from off site.
– There is a 1/4 mile setback in the on farm composting for these areas, but it can be removed if the municipality where the site is located passes an ordinance to set a smaller setback.

HB3319 – Allows farmers to bring organic agricultural materials in from off site and also 10% additives (food scrap, etc.) from off site.  This is for rural areas. We will be amending this bill in April to clarify that livestock bedding is also acceptable.

Changing the way we view garbage, one bucket at a time

While we’re on the subject of composting, I’m happy to introduce Erlene Howard, Owner of Collective Resource, which might end up chaning the world. One can hope, anyway.

I met Erlene at GreenTown Highland Park last fall and when I discovered that she has a door-to-door food scap collecting business, I immediately knew that I wanted to interview her on my show. As she says on her website:

Commercial composting is different than yard composting.  At a commercial site you can compost anything that was once alive, including animal products and food soiled paper.

Door-to-door food scrap pickup service. We provide a 5 gallon bucket to your family and then weekly or biweekly pickup the food scraps and take them to a commercial compost site. We also leave a clean bucket for you to continue your collection for the next pickup. See if you are in our service area. To start, email erlene@collectiveresource.us with your address and daytime telephone number.

As she also says, “IT IS NOT GARBAGE, It is nourishment for the planet.” Here’s a list of the scaps that she will pick up:

Meat, bones, fish, and seafood
Seafood shells
Fruits and vegetables
Eggs and eggshells
Milk, cheese, and other dairy
Dressings, condiments, sauces, and soups
Flour, bread, pasta, and pastries
Coffee grounds and filters
Nuts and nut shells
Spices, oils, and fats
Compostable Disposables
100% Paper plates and napkins
Corn based plastic cups and bottles
Remove all the labels from the fruit’s skins

And, of course, there’s my own slogan, “It’s not garbage, it’s future dirt.”

The return of NIIPP’s Cathy McGlynn

On March 3, Cathy McGlynn, coordinator for the Northeast Illinois Invasive Plant Partnership (NIIPP) appeared on my show all too briefly. I got caught up in my conversation with The Garden Professors and short-changed Cathy, so I promised to have her back on the program as soon as possible. Today is the day.

March 3rd through 9th was National Invasive Species Awareness Week. NIIPP was to have promoted that event as well as their green industry outreach efforts since the gardening season will be starting soon after. But as I reported then, of the federally mandated budget cuts (which we are just beginning to feel), there was no money for the Awareness Week programs. If you click on the above link, you’ll see this message:


Obviously, the money is still unavailable. So much for fighting invasives, eh?

Cathy and I will talk today about a few ornamentals that you should be aware of…mainly because they are exotic invasives. It might shock you to learn that not only should you not be growing

Burning bush
Japanese barberry
Purple loosestrife
Japanese knotweed
Porcelain vine
Butterfly bush
Callery pear (Bradford Pear)

but you shouldn’t be able to buy them at garden centers and box stores. In fact, the City of Chicago has its own list of invasive plants and many states and regions have similar lists.

We’ll do our best to make you unhappy about your plant choices this morning.