“Fracking” Bill Filed in Illinois
By Brian Mackey, from additional reporting from The Associated Press
The controversial oil and gas drilling process known as "fracking" could soon be coming to Illinois. Environmentalists and industry groups Thursday announced they had reached an agreement on legislation to regulate the practice.
Hydraulic fracturing pumps massive amounts of water and other chemicals deep into the ground, cracking rocks and releasing oil or natural gas. Backers, like Mark Denzler of the Illinois Manufacturers' Association, said it is important for economic growth.
"It's going to create jobs, it's going to reduce our dependence on foreign oil, and it's going to lead to low cost of energy for businesses and consumers for many decades to come," he said.
But environmentalists say there are significant questions about the safety of fracking, from water contamination to the possibility of man-made earthquakes.
Ann Alexander with the Natural Resources Defense Council said she wants the issue studied further. But she recognized that, like it or not, fracking is coming to Illinois.
"And for that reason, it is critical that we have protections in place to protect the public, and to protect our air and water," Alexander said.
Thus, environmentalists are agreeing to these regulations. They say they are the toughest in the U.S. If the proposal becomes law, backers hope fracking will be underway by the end of the year.
“Today’s proposal is good news for Southern Illinois and our entire state’s economy," said Gov. Pat Quinn. "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."
Rep. John Bradley (D-Marion) and Rep. David Reis (R-Olney) filed the bill Thursday.
Supporters of hydraulic fracturing believe the bill has a good shot because it was negotiated by officials from industry and agriculture, environmentalists, lawmakers and Attorney General Lisa Madigan.