What is Fracking?

by Angela Li
March 26, 2012

Hydraulic fracturing, more widely known as fracking, is a process in which a fluid is pumped at high pressure into a geologic formation to break up the rock, and release oil or gas trapped within. The oil or gas is subsequently siphoned out, along with any recovered fracking fluid (water combined with chemicals such as isopropanol). Frequently, these geologic formations are shale formations, and it is shale gas (an increasingly important form of natural gas) that is being extracted. Fracking has been largely embraced as a source of job creation and as helping the US on its way to energy independence, and shale gas is considered by many to be a cleaner-burning alternative to coal and other fossil fuels.

However, environmentalists have several qualms with the practice. First, fracking pollutes groundwater; several contaminated freshwater wells have been reported. Second, the process consumes vast quantities of water, much of which cannot be recovered. And lastly, fracking may be causing earthquakes in different parts of the country. These concerns complicate the issue of fracking, even as it becomes increasingly widespread.
*See also* The Colbert Report released a great episode about fracking last summer:
^ Features flammable water among other things!



Taking Action Against Coal at City Hall

(written by UCAN member, Angela Li)
Last Wednesday, Februrary 15th, several UCANers joined an effort at Chicago’s City Hall to pressure Mayor Emanuel to take action with the Clean Power Ordinance to shut down Fisk and Crawford coal plants. Also present were activists from the Pilsen Alliance, Chicago Respiratory Health Association, and the Southside Steelworkers Union. During a press conference attended by local TV stations, activists (including Grace Pai, UCAN’s very own Assistant Director!) spoke about the harmful impacts of coal plants on human health and Chicago communities. Grace emphasized the importance of our generation taking action to improve conditions for the future. Continue reading

UCAN Attends Retreat with CYCC (Chicago Youth Climate Coalition), Day 1

(written by UCAN member, Caitlin)

On February 3rd and 4th, young people ranging from middle school students to those in their mid-twenties gathered together at The First Lutheran Church of the Trinity in Bridgeport, an area neighboring Pilsen and Little Village, the two districts that the Fisk and Crawford Coal Plants are located in. Students from schools such as University of Chicago, DePaul, School of the Art Institute of Chicago, Chicago middle and high schools, and organizations such as the Chicago Clean Power Coalition and Sierra Club had an opportunity to meet each other, learn more about the environmental issues affecting Chicago, and share their stories of activism and environmentalism. The highlight of the night for me was the 1-on-1 training by Christine Nannicelli and Alicia Klepfer, in which we learned how to establish a ‘common ground’ with another person within the movement just simply by meeting them for coffee. These personal relationships hold the movement together! The most touching moment was when Alicia, now director of the UChicago Climate Activist Network, talked about the impact that UChicago’s trip to Powershift had on her involvement in environmental activism. She said she found out about the event from table tents, small posters we placed on dining hall tables promoting the events. I remember making those table tents for Powershift, not knowing how widespread the effect was on students I did not even personally know! This goes to show how meaningful environmental work can be not just for the cause itself but for the positive impacts it can have on the lives of those involved. I was also especially inspired by the middle and high school students at the retreat who cared so much about issues in their city. The event was great for meeting people from other schools, connecting with those who care about similar issues, and learning how to organize around these issues. I cannot wait for future Chicago Youth Climate Coalition events!

UCAN Attends Retreat with CYCC (Chicago Youth Climate Coalition), Day 2

(written by UCAN member Alana)

Imagine waking up to the smell of eggs and oatmeal, the jostling of friendly feet and the occasional shriek as someone accidently steps in dog poop and you will know exactly how it felt to begin the second day of the CYCC retreat. After eating this delicious meal and scrubbing of the floors, we began a busy day. We learned how to work with the media and on social media sites. We learned what CYCC had worked on so far and where we are going. Thanks to the Sierra Club, we learned how to run a good meeting and how to tell a personal narrative. (A special shout out to Xoana Ahmeti who shared her narrative with such force and emotion she had us all in tears.) We learned how to make booklets out of large sheets of paper, a task much harder than it sounds. We learned how to participate in Non-Violent Direct Action a.k.a. how to not get ourselves arrested or at least how to get ourselves put in jail in style. We finished the day with some more wonderful food and pledges of how to get involved in the future. To end it all, the remaining 6 UCAN members piled into Ross’s car for a quick, crowded and hilarious ride home, feeling completely exhausted and incredibly motivated!

UCAN Attends "Occupy the Dream" on MLK Weekend

(written by UCAN member, Ross)

To celebrate MLK Day, UCAN, teamed up with Southside Solidarity Network and Southsiders Organized for Unity and Liberation for a day of action at the People’s Church on Lawrence and Sheridan. A number of UCAN members attended, and were rewarded with an extremely positive, unique experience. Grassroots organizations from across Chicagoland–including ones from northwestern Indian, northern Chicago, the southside and a number of universities in the area–gathered to discuss how we can change the city and the country for the better, accompanied by politicians and a number of other community and religious leaders. The event, titled “Occupy the Dream” to both honor MLK and cite the goals of the Occupy movement, featured some wonderfully uplifting music, impassioned speeches and, most importantly a number of state and city representatives agreeing to support our platform in their respective legislative chambers. Some of the major issues raised included bank accountability and the need for better infrastructure in and around Chicago, with relevant follow-up actions planned for the rest of the month. UCAN left the action energized, motivated and ready to create some change!

Organizer Training Leaves Us Excited!


(written by UCAN member, Ross)

On Sunday, UCAN hosted an organizer training where we were able to unite a number of different activists from all across Chicago. We discussed our values and motivations, pinpointed what we wanted to achieve with environmental activism, practiced one-on-ones and thought up ways to more accurately plan out how to reach a goal. The training was jam-packed with quite a bit of information, but that just left many of us hungry for more strategies and tools to use in our activism. It certainly left me excited and motivated, especially after getting the opportunity to meet and connect with so many other Chicagoans interested in a green future. This training is a great start to what I’m sure will be an exciting couple weeks, with upcoming media and lobbying training sessions before our winter, Chicago-wide retreat and push for the Clean Power Ordinance hearing.

Ending Phony Education

(written by UCAN member, Edward)

In a close victory, UCAN successfully collected over 200 post cards protesting the Illinois Coal Curriculum. The competition sponsored by the IL Student Environmental Coalition to drive in as many post cards as possible before Christmas featured several universities and colleges from around the state. The post cards will all be compiled and sent to Governor Pat Quinn in response to a free curriculum provided by the Dept of Commerce and Economic Opportunity singing the praises of coal and coal products without mentioning any of the negative aspects.

Even with the competition over, the collection of post cards continues with a count from all participating schools well over 500. The Coal Curriculum campaign will be an on-going one as the next stage will be introducing legislation that will end the curriculum for good with the post card petitions being the first step. For now UChicago and UCAN can celebrate its swift call to action with anhe first step. For now UChicago can celebrate its swift call to action with an I-go membership.

UCAN road trip anyone?

From Disappointment to Optimism

(written by UCAN member, Edward)

Coal gasification has been getting its fair share of attention lately by various corporate powers as a clean energy source and eyed by government officials as something that creates jobs.

But the burning of fossil fuels can never be truly clean and far more jobs can be created with actual clean energy projects. The Tenaska state bill concerns the potential construction of a coal gasification plant in Taylorville, IL.
UCAN sprung into action to try and help stop it’s passage. But before we could successfully schedule a meeting with our local senator Kwame Raoul, the bill came up for a vote and Sen. Raoul voted yes.
A few days after the fateful vote, Caroline Wooten (in picture, left) and I went to our scheduled meeting with the senator. Considering that the vote was already cast, the lobby meeting became a fact finding mission to understand why Senator Raoul voted the way he did.
As it turned out, Senator Raoul was a very warm and friendly character. Upon hearing our concerns he assured us that the environment was a concern to him and that in this case his “yes” vote was a much due to a lack of pressure and information as anything else.
By the end of the meeting it was clear that the senator was sympathetic to our cause and is a potential friend especially given his open invitation to meet with him again on future issues.
The meeting was highly successful despite the less than ideal timing. So while Tenaska still lives and looms its ugly head somewhere in the IL house, UCAN has found a new friend moving ahead when going in, it was least expected.

Photo Petition Delivery by Caroline Wooten

Students from UChicago Climate Action Network and their campus ally Student Solidarity Network joined over 50 citizens in front of City Hall on Friday morning to demand that Mayor Emmanuel close Chicago’s two dirty coal plants by the end of the year. The group delivered a board of over 800 photo petitions to the Mayor’s office. The petitions were collected all around Chicago, and feature individuals holding signs saying “I have the right to breath clean air.” Many of the petitions were collected at UChicago by SSN and UCAN members. Check out the Huffington Post article about the delivery: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/jeff-biggers/chicago-cant-wait-mayor-e_b_1125832.html