Friday, May 31, 2013

Senate approves legislation
to regulate 'fracking' ventures

By Jamey Dunn

A bill to regulate horizontal fracturing is headed to Gov. Pat Quinn, who plans to sign the bill.

Hydraulic fracturing, also known as fracking, is a process used to extract oil and natural gas by pumping water, chemicals and sand into the ground. The water fractures a source rock, allowing gas or oil to escape and be collected. Sand is used to hold the cracks in the rock open. Chemicals are added to the water for a variety of reasons, such as disinfection, lubrication and making the water thicker to keep the sand from sinking.

Senate Bill 1715 would set standards for the construction of fracking wells, as well as for the storage and disposal of what is used in the process. If fracking chemicals are found in water, it would assumed that it was the fracking well operator's fault, and the operator would be required to prove otherwise.   It also sets fees for permits at $13,500 per well. The measure would set the tax on oil or gas extracted from fracking wells at 3 percent for the first two years of the life of a well and then on a sliding scale based on production.

Senate Bill 1715  has a broad coalition of supporters, including business groups, unions and some environmental organizations, which dubbed it the strictest fracking regulations in the nation. According to the Illinois Department of Natural Resources, permits the agency has reviewed indicate that fracking is already taking place in the state. Supporters also tout the economic development that fracking would bring to struggling southern Illinois economies. At present, the state does not have laws specifically regulating fracking. Democratic Sen. Michael Frerichs of Champaign told senators tonight that “the choice is between regulated responsible fracking” or the “wild West.”

But supporters of a moratorium say the state should slow down and wait on the results of some studies, that are under way. “There’s still a lot of questions out there that need to be asked. We’re talking about water contamination,” said Chicago Democratic Sen. Iris Martinez. “These studies are still pending out there. ... I’m just very scared about the environment. I am very worried about what these reports might have to say about what fracking has done in other states. I think we can wait a little bit when it comes to lives and our environment.”

Frerichs responded by saying that lawmakers must move to regulate fracking now. “It is not between a moratorium and fracking. Fracking has already come into the state.”


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