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Legislation to halt hydraulic fracturing introduced in Illinois

Posted February 20, 2013 by Joe Rehana in News

In its battle to help enact regulation on hydraulic fracturing, or restrict it altogether, Southern Illinois Against Fracturing our Environment [SAFE] felt a bit of joy recently when state Sen. Mattie Hunter, D-IL 3rd District, introduced SB1418 into the 98th General Assembly.

A screenshot of SB1418, which was introduced into the 98th General Assembly recently, which amends the Illinois Oil and Gas Act and includes a provision to ban high volume horizontal hydraulic fracturing operations for two years.

A screenshot of SB1418, which was introduced into the 98th General Assembly recently, which amends the Illinois Oil and Gas Act and includes a provision to ban high volume horizontal hydraulic fracturing operations for two years.

Senate Bill 1418 amends the Illinois Oil and Gas Act and includes a provision to ban high volume horizontal hydraulic fracturing operations for two years as a Hydraulic Fracturing Task Force “conducts a thorough review of the regulation of hydraulic fracturing operations in Illinois.”

“The Illinois Coalition for a Moratorium on Fracking (ICMF), with member groups including SAFE, is pleased to announce the introduction of Bill SB1418 into the Illinois General Assembly today,” said SAFE spokeswoman Annette McMichael in a press release Feb. 7.  “Critical studies regarding health effects from proximity to high-volume fracturing will be one key area of study.”

This is not the first attempt in the General Assembly to enact legislation that would halt hydraulic fracturing, also known as fracking. Last year SB3280, a bill designed to regulate fracking, was introduced into the 97th General Assembly and had broad support until it was amended with a two-year moratorium on the practice, according to Energy In Depth Illinois field director Kyna Legner.

“These bills are simply smoke and mirror illusions that undermine the concerted efforts of legislators to develop meaningful regulation, which would provide our state with the possibility of tens of thousands of new jobs and represent an enormous amount of new investment in Illinois,” said Legner.  “What these groups consistently fail to acknowledge is the fact that the safety of hydraulic fracturing has been repeatedly confirmed by state and federal regulators, choosing instead to repeat false talking points in an attempt to obscure the truth.”

Opposition groups disagree and for the past year have pit themselves against an industry they say are capable of out manning and outspending their efforts, but they remain committed and look towards SB1418 with hope that their argument will gain traction throughout the state.

“Everyone has to look at the big picture. How much is it worth to have safe drinking water for your kids? Or, enough water for everyone during a drought? How much is it worth to avoid an increase in the cancer rate due to air pollution?” said McMichael.  “Our goal is to continue to educate the public and build awareness in order to create local interest within communities.”

While energy industry disputes claims of fracking causing health or environmental deficiencies, they and their opponents are working on educational seminars and programs they each claim are looking to raise awareness of the benefits or lack there of, depending on which side is speaking.

Next week two such programs are taking place with the first in Carbondale and the second in Springfield.

“Southern Illinois Against Fracturing our Environment will present a program about fracking on Friday, March 1, from 7-8 p.m. at the Carbondale Civic Center,” said McMichael. “The program will present information about the problems associated with fracking and what role communities can have in the decision-making process.”

McMichael said an explanation of SB1418 would also be covered and stressed that fracking is likely to be the most important issue in Southern Illinois during 2013.

The seminar in Springfield is set for Monday, March 4, from 10 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. at the Northfield Inn in Springfield and is hosted by the Illinois Association of County Board Members and Commissioners (IACBMC) to discuss the practice of hydraulic fracturing for natural gas production stimulation.

“Experts have been selected with the goal of maintaining balanced viewpoints from various stakeholder groups, including state and local governments, industry, non-governmental organizations, and the academic community,” said the Association.  “The meeting will begin with an overview of oil and gas production in Illinois, including geologic formations where oil and natural gas are found.”

While Illinois lawmakers debate the issues surrounding hydraulic fracturing, groups for and against the practice will continue to encourage people to get involved and get the facts to make up their own minds of where they stand on fracking in Illinois.