New Fracking Legislation Could Chart a Consensus Course in Illinois

A new proposal, HB 2615, endorsed by both industry and environmental groups has received bipartisan support in the Illinois State House which may lay the groundwork for a regulatory path forward on the often controversial issue of hydraulic fracturing. According to news reports, the filed bill - titled the "Hydraulic Fracturing Regulatory Act" - would require oil and natural gas operators to test water in all phases of drilling, require chemical disclosure of fracking solutions, address air pollution concerns, and hold companies liable for water contamination found after drilling operations.

In a letter of endorsement by the Illinois Environmental Council, they called the proposal "the nation's most comprehensive fracking regulations." 

The lead sponsors of the bill are Rep. John Bradley and Rep. David Reis who invited and worked with a diverse group of stakeholders including the Illinois Petroleum Council, Environment Illinois, the Natural Resources Defense Council, and labor groups for nearly five months to draft a compromise before introduction late last week. A study cited by a press release from the Illinois House Republican's website estimated that hydraulic fracturing could create over 45,000 new jobs and add $9 billion in economic development for the state.

Hydraulic fracturing is performed after a well is drilled and involves injecting large volumes of water, sand or propping agents and specialized chemicals under high pressure to fracture the formations holding the oil or natural gas. The sand or other propping agents hold the fractures open to allow the oil or natural gas to flow freely out of the formation and into a production well. Despite the potentially large economic and energy security benefits, many communities and environmental advocacy groups believe that hydraulic fracturing may cause or contribute to groundwater pollution, increased harmful air emissions, and strains local water supplies.

Southern Illinois is home to the potentially energy-rich New Albany Shale play, where the Energy Information Administration estimates it holds roughly 11 trillion cubic feet of natural gas. 
The proposal is expected to move through the House and Gov. Pat Quinn issued a positive statement saying that while more works needs to be done, "Today’s proposal is good news for Southern Illinois and our entire state’s economy. 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."