More than 20,000 comments sent to IDNR over fracking regulations
With the deadline to submit comments regarding draft rules governing the Hydraulic Fracturing Regulatory Act coming to a close last Friday, several groups opposed to the practice said the rules do not do enough to protect Illinois residents and the environment.
More than 20,000 comments were generated and submitted to the Illinois Department of Natural Resources opposing the rules as they are currently written.
“The Fair Economy Illinois coalition is demanding that IDNR go back to the drawing board,” the group said in a press statement last week claiming the number of comments submitted surpasses all prior comment sessions held in IDNR history. “The comments focus on incomplete, inadequate or otherwise deficient rules that threaten the health, safety and welfare of Illinois citizens and the environment.”
Fair Economy Illinois promotes itself as a grassroots coalition fighting for public policies that “reduce income inequality and promote investment in the common good.” The IDNR said it could not confirm if the number of comments submitted were a “record number” and that the IDNR would review all of the comments and make any adjustments to the draft rules before submitting them to the Joint Committee on Administrative Rules, a bipartisan panel of lawmakers.
During the 50-day comment period, five public hearings were held with the last of them held at Southern Illinois University in Carbondale the week before Christmas.
“Despite the fact that many were held during the holiday season, approximately 1,000 citizens attended the public hearings,” Sierra Club’s Terri Treacy said. “The overwhelming majority of attendees expressed serious concerns that the proposed rules do not reflect the minimum required by the regulatory Act, and will not provide the basic protections needed to protect the public and environment.”
The Fair Economy Illinois coalition has asked Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn and the Joint Committee on Administrative Rules to step in and extend the first notice period of the rule-making process to address the issues they say have come up with the rules.
“High-volume horizontal fracturing, or “fracking,” is a dangerous practice that, unfortunately, is currently exempt from some of our most important federal environmental protections,” Treacy of the Sierra Club said. “This puts a great burden on states, and here in Illinois on the Department, to be the lead regulators of this dangerous practice. The safest and best approach for Illinois would be to enact a moratorium on the practice so that we can learn more from other states’ experiences, and ongoing scientific and health research.
“However, we realize that, if fracking is to occur in Illinois, we must adopt the strongest possible regulations to protect ourselves. We view the new protections required by the Act not as the ultimate, or even sufficient regulations, but a bare minimum that should be strengthened over time.”