By an overwhelming margin, the Illinois state legislature has passed SB1715, the legislation putting in place regulations governing high volume fracking. The House passed the bill yesterday 108 to 9, and the Senate passed it tonight 52 to 3 (with 4 voting present). The moratorium legislation, SB 630, was defeated.
It is unfortunate for Illinois that the moratorium did not pass, despite the support of NRDC and others in the environmental community, as it would have made much more sense to take the time needed to carefully evaluate fracking. However, passage of the regulatory bill comes truly at the 11th hour – not only because it happened on the last day of session, but because it was almost too late. NRDC’s research revealed earlier this week that, around the time the last General Assembly session was busy failing to pass any fracking legislation at all, a well operator was busy completing a high-volume fracking operation in White County.
So there was no time to spare in getting protections on the books. SB2715 is not by any means perfect, but it is a start. As we have explained many times in the past, current law is little more than a blank check to the oil drilling industry. SB1715 will at least give the public a voice in the process, and a suite of basic protections.
None of this is going to make fracking safe. Nor was passing a regulatory bill our first choice. Plan A was to pass a moratorium to allow careful, deliberate study of the risks of fracking and the full range of regulation that could ameliorate those risks – something we continue to call for. We have our work cut out for us trying to fix the problems that remain, such as the fact that local governments still have no control over how fracking is conducted within their borders. But a very bad situation – fracking proceeding with no meaningful law governing it – has been pulled out of the fire, and we now have something to build upon in the days ahead.