Summary of TRANSFORM Track
The morning session featured a panel discussion titled, “A Critical Look at the World of Fracking.” Earlier this year, the Illinois Senate rejected a proposal to impose a moratorium on fracking. The Illinois Department of Natural Resources published the first draft of Illinois' rules for high-volume oil and gas drilling for public comment on the same day these three panelists made their case with respect to fracking:
- Tom Wolf, Illinois Chamber of Commerce, made the case that fracking is socially and economically beneficial to communities;
- Sarah Wochos, Environmental Law and Policy Center, made the case for developing a robust regulatory framework to minimize potential negative impacts of fracking; and
- Dylan Amlin, IIRON Student Network, made the case that there is nothing in the past to suggest industry would proceed in a way that does not have damaging consequences and called for renewed efforts to catalyze politicians to impose a moratorium on fracking in Illinois.
Panelists discussed the robustness of the fracking regulations and acknowledged the unresolved questions about the longer-term impact of fracking, particularly on health, water quality/availability and underground eco-systems. The session did not focus on finding solutions but rather aimed to create a safe space to address the major challenges with fracking head-on through informed, respectful dialogue and community participation.
In the afternoon session of the Transform track had 4 “ignite” presentations by representatives from public & non-profit organizations that engage communities in sustainability initiatives. Each 5 minute presentation was followed by 5 minutes of questions from track participants. Presenters included:
- Gary Cuneen, Seven Generations Ahead, discussed the PlanIt Green Sustainability Report Card initiative in Oak Park and River Forest that measures the progress of community sustainability goals to leverage change.
- Emily Plagman, Chicago Metropolitan Planning Agency, discussed the effectiveness of the “house party” model Energy Impact Illinois used to promote energy efficiency retrofit work in Chicago.
- Lynn Englum, World Wildlife Fund, busted common myths about using solar energy; it is not costly, complicated, unreliable or ugly; it will boost home resale value; and it is effectively used in much cloudier climates than ours.
- Henrietta Saunders, Faith In Place, discussed her work engaging her congregation in sustainability initiatives and the power of uniting in a common cause.
Track participants reported feeling excited about the diversity of ways to engage local communities in making more sustainable choices and felt empowered to connect with others to advocate for more sustainable approaches to sourcing and using energy.
At the close of the Transform track, track participants reflected on connecting and partnering with others to promote sustainability in their communities and left with a renewed sense of hope for the future.