By Claire Hagarty
The Illinois General Assembly Joint Committee on Administrative Rules (JCAR) met on Sept. 16, 2014 to discuss revisions for the second draft of the Hydraulic Fracturing Regulatory Act. This act will introduce rules and regulations on hydraulic fracturing for the extraction of natural gas and oil in Illinois.
JCAR is a 14-member legislative committee that can approve, disapprove, or request revisions for laws such as the Hydraulic Fracturing Regulatory Act. According to Chris Young from the Illinois Department of Natural Resources, JCAR asked for rules to be broken down more technically and requested 45 more days to revise. JCAR will reconvene in October.
In June 2013, JCAR was presented with a law allowing regulated hydraulic fracturing to penetrate the grounds as a source of extracting natural gas and oil in Illinois. Hydraulic fracturing (or “fracking”) is a process where large amounts of high-pressure fluids including water and chemicals are injected deep into the earth to loosen rock, allowing gas and oils to move more freely.
On Aug. 29, 2014, the second draft of revised rules and regulations were released. The energy companies argued the revisions are too strict while the environmentalists are argued the rules are still not strict enough. Energy companies have been showing interest in investing in Illinois soil; however, the persistence of environmental groups has caused many to give up. Environmental groups are opposed to fracking and don’t mind the delay in approval of the rules and regulations.
Fracking could benefit the region by using natural gas and oil as a more common energy source. The industry will grow substantially creating jobs and will create an alternative to burning coal. Governor Pat Quinn has stated that bringing fracking to southern Illinois will ensure jobs and the environment will be protected under the strict regulations. Bringing fracking to southern Illinois could bring a substantial economic development.
However, hydraulic fracturing demands a mass amount of water that never returns to the water cycle. The water and chemicals injected into the earth contaminate groundwater and the neighboring land. Southern Illinois covers a major aquifer that holds a large amount of groundwater. Environmental groups in southern Illinois have been challenging this law since it was proposed. It has attracted a large group of environmental activists who have managed to delay the process for over a year.
“It has been proven over and over and over again that injection wells used in hydraulic fracturing cause earthquakes,” said Annette McMichael at Southern Illinoisians Against Fracturing Our Environment (SAFE), one of the major environmental groups fighting the fracking law. She describes earthquakes as one of the main concerns with fracking in southern Illinois.
Southern Illinois falls on two major fault lines and is already at high risk for major earthquakes. Injecting high volume toxic fluid into the ground increases the risk for earthquakes. Scientists have found that fracking has been linked to earthquakes in states that practice high-volume hydraulic fracturing such as Colorado. This could be devastating to southern Illinois.
Fracking operations have the reputation of not being transparent to the public. Governor Quinn argues the rules will be strict and monitored so that the environment is protected and operations will be transparent for the public. The Illinois Department of Natural Resources is responsible for enforcing such regulations, rules, and approving fracking permits to energy companies.
Currently, hydraulic fracturing is allowed without regulations. Illinois is pushing to be the first state with strict regulations requiring transparency from the fracking companies. This law will require water samples, chemical disclosures, and storage of contaminated fluids in tanks above ground. Environmentalists are persistently pushing for a hydraulic fracturing ban in Illinois to protect the environment and prevent the potential health hazards.
JCAR will meet again in October to make further actions on the Hydraulic Fracturing Regulatory Act.