A sustainable future which fulfills our needs for energy, employment, and habitation demands that we develop non-polluting technologies which do not threaten our soil, air or water. For this reason, Southern Illinoisans Against Fracturing our Environment (SAFE) established itself with the sole mission of banning fracking in Southern Illinois. Hydraulic fracturing, also known as fracking, is a method of oil and natural gas extraction that involves injecting fluid into subterranean rock formations at high pressure.
In 2014, SAFE filed a lawsuit against the Illinois Department of Natural Resources (IDNR), seeking a declaratory judgement that would find fracking unconstitutional in Illinois. The Constitution of Illinois has a provision that states that all citizens have “the right to a healthful environment.” The members of SAFE believe that horizontal fracking is a direct violation of this provision because of its destructive effects on the groundwater and citizen’s access to clean water.
This summer, the attorneys representing SAFE reached out to Great Rivers Environmental Law Center for additional assistance on this case. Most recently the IDNR has filed a Motion for Protective Order, which would unnecessarily restrict the use of important documents. The judge promptly entered the Protective Order before SAFE’s attorneys had a chance to respond. Great Rivers’ Legal Intern, Jackson Ramsey, helped write a response to this motion demanding that the documents not be protected, as much of the information was already a part of the public record. Jackson also helped write a Motion to Vacate the Protective Order which was entered without an opportunity for SAFE to respond. On July 18, 2019, the attorneys for SAFE presented these arguments to the Judge and he ultimately ruled in their favor. Instead of allowing all the documents in the case to be blanketed by a protective order, he agreed that any information which was clearly part of the public record could be discovered. Furthermore, he put the burden on the IDNR to specify individual documents which it believed were confidential for the judge to rule on separately at a later date. This was a victory for SAFE as it will allow them to freely and openly use around 99% of the discovery documents to develop their case against the INDR. While a declaration that fracking in Illinois is unconstitutional is still far afield, the win on Thursday puts SAFE one step closer to securing cleaner energy in Illinois.
Jackson Ramsey is a second-year law student at St. Louis University School of Law. He studied Vocal Performance in undergrad at Loyola University New Orleans and lived as a musician for five years before law school. In his spare time he enjoys hiking, gardening, and rehabbing his house.