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New bill proposes regulations on horizontal hydraulic fracturing

Posted February 27, 2013 by Joe Rehana in News

On the heels of previous legislation proposed to ban high-volume horizontal hydraulic fracturing in Illinois for up to two years, a new bill entered last week proposes to “regulate” the practice and require a permit with rules that the Illinois Department of Natural Resources would adopt.

House Bill 2615 was entered into the 98th General Assembly by State Rep. John Bradley, D-Marion, saying the proposal was the result of months of negotiating between legislators, state agencies, business and industry leaders and environmental groups, but not everyone agrees.

“Although Rep. Bradley continues to claim that all sides were represented when negotiating the bill, I can assure you that residents of Southern Illinois concerned about the safety and water-use issues of fracking were not consulted,” said Southern Illinoisans Against Fracturing our Environment spokeswoman Annette McMichael.

explanation of fracking image

An illustration on how hydraulic fracturing or “fracking” is accomplished ~ source: Delaware First Media

The bill was referred to the Rules Committee Thursday with bipartisan support and more than 20 co-sponsors including State Rep. Mike Bost, R-Murphysboro.  It creates the Illinois Hydraulic Fracturing Regulatory Act, which among requiring a permit would also “regulate where high volume horizontal hydraulic fracturing operations are proposed, planned, or occurring may be located, and provides requirements for permit applications, modification, suspension, and revocation of permits, insurance, well construction and drilling, disclosures, water quality monitoring, investigation and enforcement, violations and penalties, and administrative review,” according to the text entered with the assembly.

“Today’s proposal is good news for Southern Illinois and our entire state’s economy,” said Gov. Pat Quinn in a statement released last week.  “This legislation has the potential to bring thousands of jobs to Southern Illinois, while also ensuring that Illinois has the nation’s strongest environmental protections.”

Energy companies have been acquiring drilling rights to use fracking in Southern Illinois’ New Albany shale deposits with more than 200 mineral rights leased in Johnson County alone just since last year.

Environmental groups have opposed any such drilling to occur until additional studies could be completed which gave rise to the grass-roots organization Southern Illinoisans Against Fracturing our Environment [SAFE], who have concentrated their efforts regionally and applauded the proposed Senate Bill 1418 entered into the 98th General Assembly the week before.  As reported by the Gazette last week, 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.”

While organizations such as SAFE contends any fracking legislation should consist of a ban until further studies are completed, the need to move forward in the regulatory process is what HB2615 proposes to accomplish and does include the support of the Sierra Club and other environmental groups.

Natural Resources Defense Council Midwest program director Henry Henderson said on his blog, “While far from perfect, as written [HB2615] is hugely important to start putting protections for Illinois communities and our economies in place right now. In particular, the bill provides many critical protections that are lacking in other states’ piecemeal fracking rules.”

Henderson said the bill addresses an “array of important issues raised by the arrival of the new combination of high-volume hydraulic fracturing and horizontal drilling to Illinois.” Adding, “It represents the strongest state fracking rules we have seen to-date.”