This past Friday, Aug. 29th, the Illinois DNR released its revised regulations for hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, after receiving a record number of 30,000+ public comments on its initial draft rules back in the fall of 2013. Now the state’s Joint Committee on Administrative Rules, made up of several IL legislators (many of whom are from the Chicago region), will do a final review of these regulations within a 45-day period. If they are approved, oil and gas companies will be able to start applying for fracking permits in IL, a prospect they have been salivating over ever since Gov. Quinn signed IL’s hotly-contested fracking law back in the summer of 2013.
As reported by the Chicago Tribune‘s Julie Wernau, the new fracking regulations are complex and will require detailed analysis over the new few days by environmental critics to see how much they’ve been strengthened compared to the original draft rules, which were criticized because they failed to live up to the intent of the law in many instances. As Wernau notes in this useful article, though, the regulations are extremely important in terms of how companies must protect natural resources, provide information to the public, regulate their pollution, etc.
Meanwhile, fracking is playing an increasingly prominent role in the state’s gubernatorial politics. Republican candidate Bruce Rauner has received hundreds of thousands of dollars in campaign money from oil and gas companies, who are frustrated at the long delay by the IDNR to revise its regulations. At the same time, Democratic incumbent Pat Quinn has touted fracking as an economic/job engine for the state, much to the chagrin of environmental progressives such as the IL People’s Action organization, who view the prospect of frac sand mining in northern IL and fracking in southern IL as a huge step backward for the state’s environmental protections, public health, and energy policy.
Stay tuned for more news from environmental advocates and policy groups as they assess the new IDNR rules; and check out the regulations here for yourself.