Illinois Passes Most Stringent Fracking Regs

Illinois has passed legislation that institutes the most stringent regulations on natural gas fracking in the US. 

The policy passed overwhelmingly in both houses (Senate – 52-3; House – 108-9).

It is the first state to require disclosure of chemicals to be used both before and after drilling, and to require water testing before operations begin and several times after its finished.

Companies must register with the Department of Natural Resources and when they apply for permits they must also detail:

  • how the well will be drilled
  • the amount of fluid used and at what pressure
  • how it will withdraw water and contain waste

After a company files an application for a permit, the public will be able to submit comments for 30 days. 

And people who suspect their water has been contaminated by  fracking will be able to request an investigation. Once requested, the Department of Natural Resources will have 30 days to conduct the investigation and 180 days to reach a determination.

"This new law will unlock the potential for thousands of jobs in Southern Illinois and ensure that our environment is protected," says Governor Quinn. 

One major issue is left out however – the amount of water used in the fracking process and a requirement that recycled water be used. Water use for Illinois residents has been restricted for the past year because of last summer’s searing drought, which resulted in record low crop production.

But that requirement doesn’t extend to fracking which consumes several million gallons of water for each drilling well.

Fracking has begun in Illinois, but is not widespread yet. Some in the environmental community say they will make sure the  law is strongly enforced and but most want it banned in the state.

Southern Illinoisans Against Fracturing Our Environment (SAFE)asked elected officials to visit fracking sites in Pennsylvania to view the destruction, but not one of them did.

Meanwhile, in New York, three thousand people rallied at the state house yesterday, asking the Governor and legislature to reject fracking and lead on renewable energy instead. The state currently has a moratorium on fracking (which is what SAFE wanted in Illinois).

"Fracking is not just a political issue, It’s also a moral issue. It’s about protecting the common good from greed, says Reverend Bill Levering of the NY State Council of Churches, one of 130 organizations represented at the rally, "New York Crossroads."

Competition for water is already worrisome in most places where fracking is taking place, from Colorado to Texas and many other areas that have been experiencing severe droughts. In North Dakota, which now produces an eye-poping 10% of US energy, the result is escalating tension and lawsuits between frackers, farmers and other water users.

"When all of us had nothing [before the oil boom], there was nothing to fight about," Dan Kalil, a North Dakota county commissioner, told Reuters. "Now, so many friendships have been destroyed because of water and oil."

On the tar sands front, protesters have been following President Obama at every stop he makes across the US, reminding him that they are waiting for his rejection of the Keystone pipeline.

Yesterday, 22 people were arrested in Chicago including former Obama staffers, donors and volunteers who helped get him elected for both terms.

Tar sands protest

"People are ready for their government to take urgent action on the climate and they are willing to risk arrest to get it," says Amanda Starbuck of Rainforest Action Network. "Today’s sit in marks the start of what tens of thousands will be prepared to do if the president doesn’t stop the Keystone XL pipeline, and begin defending our country from climate change."

Over 62,000 people (including ME) have signed a pledge to risk arrest in peaceful protest if Obama approves the pipeline. Civil disobedience actions are planned throughout the summer.

Between fracking, tar sands and hydroelectric dams, the world is turning its back on controlling climate change and its understanding of the role humans play as part of the natural world.

The G8 summit is currently taking place and climate change didn’t make it onto the agenda. Except that Canada’s prime minister will use the occasion to continue lobbying Obama to approve the tar sands pipeline.

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