A bill heading to Gov. J.B. Pritzker’s desk is causing controversy in a village outside Kankakee.
HB3404 would provide funding for a proposed natural gas pipeline for the village of Hopkins Park in Pembroke Township.
Supporters say the pipeline could provide economic growth for the area.
But there are concerns about the environmental impact — particularly in an area that was once the largest Black farming community in the northern United States.
“Farmers for hundreds of years have been actively and intentionally conserving against the intrusions,” said Naomi Davis, the founder and president of Blacks in Green.
“When we talk about what we know about conserving the land, we are talking a culture that is looking to continue its traditions: it’s the longest continuously occupied African founded town in the state of Illinois, an underground railroad stronghold, a leading Black farming stronghold in the country,” Davis said.
Mark Hodge, the mayor of the village of Hopkins Park, said he believes the addition of the pipeline to the village could bring jobs and grow the community.
“People in Springfield have recognized that our community has been left behind and they want to modernize our community just like every community around us has been modernized,” said Hodge.
Davis said the narrative that the pipeline could bring jobs to the community is fiction. She said to bring industries into a community there has to be other needs met, like broadband internet or a fire department.
“How many times have Black communities heard over and over and over again that something was going to bring jobs,” Davis said. “We are experienced enough to know, and especially those of us in the clean energy field, that there is no silver bullet that are going to bring jobs.”