Hydraulic fracturing regulatory act awaits governor’s signature
With the passage of the Illinois Hydraulic Fracturing Regulatory Act Friday, Johnson County commissioners said Monday it is important for the community to prepare for its eventuality and ensure county infrastructure is protected.
Senate Bill 1715 is lauded to host the “nation’s strongest environmental protections” to regulated hydraulic fracturing and is praised for its bipartisan support with its passage in both houses with 52 yeas, 3 nays and 4 present.
“This bill is a jobs creator,” Illinois State Senator Gary Forby, D-Benton, said in a press release Friday. “Hydraulic fracturing has the potential to add thousands of good-paying, local jobs and provide a needed boost to our economy here in Southern Illinois.”
Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn also issued a statement saying he applauded the members of the Illinois General Assembly for passing the Act.
“This is a good bill and it’s the result of a good-faith effort by lawmakers, industry and labor leaders, environmental groups and members of my administration to ensure Illinois’ natural resources are protected,” Quinn said in his statement Friday.
Not everyone was in agreement on the passing of the Hydraulic Fracturing Regulatory Act with Southern Illinoisans Against Fracturing our Environment (SAFE) spokeswoman Annette McMichael telling the Gazette Monday the group’s legal team is looking into possible legal options.
“We also want to work with local governments on ways to establish local control,” McMichael said. “We have some options.”
Before the start of Monday’s Johnson County commissioner’s meeting, commissioner Ernie Henshaw said with the talk out of Springfield in support of it, he and others expected the passage of the Regulatory Act and said it was important for the community to now look at the business side of hydraulic fracturing and do what was possible to ensure Johnson County experiences job growth while ensuring its roads and water remain intact.
“Our roads, our water supplies; we’ve got to see what we can do from a legal standpoint to address those things,” Henshaw said.
Praise for the Regulatory Act passage also drew support from 15th Congressional District’s Rep. John Shimkus, who sent a letter to Gov. Quinn’s office urging him to sign the legislation.
“In my role in Washington, I support the state’s right to regulate fracking without the interference of the federal government,” Shimkus said in his letter to Quinn. “In addition, the rules put into place through this legislation would impose the toughest standards in the nation.”
Shimkus provided the letter to the press in a news release Monday saying, “Establishing the guidelines for fracking in the state will bring immediate jobs to the rural areas of Illinois that I represent.”
In a public forum held in Goreville to discuss hydraulic fracturing in Johnson County last month, oil and gas representatives said energy companies first wish to drill exploratory wells to see whether or not it would be profitable to move forward with hydraulic fracturing. Shimkus echoed this in his letter to Quinn saying “If those wells are successful, I can only imagine the jobs that will be created directly in the drilling business, but also those in local restaurants and housing, etc.”
Sierra Club Illinois Chapter director Jack Darin also issued a press release in regards to passage of SB1715, saying the bill “does make significant improvements in our existing oil and gas laws, and will ban some of the practices that have caused major problems in other states.
“However, the passage of SB1715 does not mean that fracking can be done safely and it does not make fracking acceptable,” Darin said. “We believe that a moratorium is still the safest and best approach.”
According to the Illinois General Assembly, the Hydraulic Fracturing Regulatory Act:
“Prohibits high volume horizontal hydraulic fracturing operations performed without a permit. Regulates where high volume horizontal hydraulic fracturing operations are proposed, planned, or occurring may be located. 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. Authorizes the Department of Natural Resources to adopt rules as may be necessary to accomplish the purposes of this Act.”
More information on the Regulatory Act is available at the General Assembly Web site, www.ilga.gov.