A message from Jen Walling, Executive Director of the non-profit environmental legislation watchdog organization, the Illinois Environmental Council, on the current political process surrounding the IDNR’s regulations on fracking.
On May 29, the Illinois Department of Natural Resources sent to the Joint Committee on Administrative Review (JCAR) revised rules for High Volume Horizontal Hydraulic Fracturing (“fracking”). The revised rules are available online here.
As you may be aware, tens of thousands of comments were made on the first notice to JCAR during public comment. You can view these comments here. The rules and comments are accompanied by a 350+ page response document that summarizes and responds to the comments made to IDNR. This exhaustive, footnoted document demonstrates an improved effort by IDNR to address concerns by the public. While you may not have time to read the entire document, supporters who follow this issue and news at IDNR may find the response to IDNR’s role in protecting the environment, response to calls for a moratorium, and other sections (such as water management and water pollution) of interest. The response document is available here.
The environmental community is still reviewing the document and has begun to identify deficiencies. Ann Alexander at NRDC has produced an excellent blog summarizing the reasons for our opposition to fracking as well as the significance of this new set of rules.
The process to adopt or reject these rules is a complicated one going forward. JCAR is a body made up of 12 legislators, 6 democrats and 6 republicans, who vote to adopt agency regulations. After the filing of these rules for second notice, JCAR has up to 45 days, which can be extended to 90 days to take action. Because action must be taken within one year of first filing the rules, action must be taken by November 15.
JCAR has a few options that it can take at this point in the process. It can issue a certificate of no objection, a recommendation, or an objection. These rulings issued to the agency all result in eventual adoption of the rules. (This Pantagraph article has a good explanation of the process). Each of these require a majority of those present and voting (7 votes if all 12 members are there). JCAR can also prohibit or suspend the rules, requiring 3/5 of those present and voting (8 votes if all members are present). For more on the JCAR rules, visit their website. While JCAR meets next on September 16, it is possible but unlikely that action will be taken at that meeting.
Executive Director, Illinois Environmental Council