Fracking Bill Clears Illinois General Assembly
State Should Not Be Fracking; But Bill Provides Some Immediate Protections for Illinois Communities
SPRINGFIELD, IL (May 31, 2013) – In the waning hours of the Illinois General Assembly’s 2013 session, legislators passed a bill that would impose new regulations on high volume hydraulic fracturing (or “fracking”) in the state.
The Natural Resources Defense Council continues to support a fracking moratorium. The bill, however, provides several important protections that residents would not otherwise have in the state where fracking is legal, unregulated and occurring. Earlier this week, NRDC exposed records that showed the controversial oil and gas extraction technique was already being used in Illinois.
“Fracking should not be taking place in Illinois, but it is,” said NRDC Midwest Director Henry Henderson. “More science, and more protections are needed for our health and safety. We would prefer a moratorium on fracking, but cannot ignore the current reality that unregulated fracking is already endangering the citizens of this state. This bill provides a solid foundation to build on, offering Illinoisans protections missing from other states, a seat at the table in the permitting process, and access to the courts to defend themselves.”
NRDC, Sierra Club, Faith in Place and ELPC were selected by a coalition of environmental organizations to represent the interests of the broader Illinois environmental community and spent months fighting hard to secure several important safeguards in the bill, including: strict well construction standards; essential citizen participation provisions allowing Illinoisans a voice in the permitting process and the ability to bring citizen enforcement actions, something not present in many states; water testing before, during and after drilling; a presumption of liability if water contamination appears in proximity to fracking operations; a detailed application process (currently, the state is empowered to collect very limited information about drilling and fracking); and required disclosure of all fracking chemicals to the public before operations commence with limitations on the industry’s ability to claim trade secrets.
“With drills already breaking ground, we now have some essential safeguards in place to protect our communities,” said NRDC senior attorney Ann Alexander. “These regulations certainly don’t make fracking safe, but they’re a start. We will continue to fight to protect Illinois from the dangers of fracking. This includes pushing for reform of the Illinois Oil and Gas Act, which contains serious limitations on the rights of local governments to have a say concerning drilling operations.”
· Text of the bill:
· Ann Alexander took part in the bill negotiations and has blogged on the issue:
o Exposing that fracking has already occurred in Illinois: http://switchboard.nrdc.org/blogs/aalexander/wake-up_call_new_evidence_that.html
o Running down the issues addressed in the bill: http://switchboard.nrdc.org/blogs/aalexander/illinois_poised_to_lead_the_na.html
· NRDC President Frances Beinecke’s blog on the national fracking fight: http://switchboard.nrdc.org/blogs/fbeinecke/protecting_communities_from_fr.html