Governor Signs Hydraulic Fracturing Legislation
Illinois Governor Pat Quinn has signed into law what's touted as the nation's toughest regulations on hydraulic fracturing.
High-volume hydraulic fracturing or "fracing" is a controversial process used to extract oil and natural gas from deep underground. The director of the Illinois Environmental Council, Jen Walling, says she wishes the state would ban the practice. But she says given that fracing's already happening in Illinois, her group and other major environmental organizations agreed to the new law. Walling says it sets stringent, comprehensive standards drillers must follow: "We don't allow open pits storage of waste water afterward. This has been a huge problem in other states. Our law requires that all waste water be kept in closed loop tanks. That's a really big deal."
It's expected to be a while before fracing really gets underway. The state has to draft rules, hire inspectors and issue permits. Most high volume hydraulic fracturing is expected to take place in about 17-counties in southern Illinois to extract natural gas from New Albany Shale deposits. State records indicate that high-volume oil drilling already has begun in Illinois. An energy company submitted a report to the Department of Natural Resources in May voluntarily disclosing that it used 640,000 gallons of water during hydraulic fracturing - or ``fracing'' - of an oil well in White County. The state defines high volume fracturing as using 300,000 gallons or more. The process uses a mixtures of water, sand or gravel and chemicals to crack rock formations deep underground and release oil and natural gas.
Business groups say as many as 50-thousand jobs could be created ... mostly in economically hard-hit southern Illinois. They also say Illinois should reap millions of dollars in taxes and fees. Illinois Oil and Gas Association Executive Vice President Brad Richards has said that the mineral rights for more than 500,000 acres of land has been leased in southern and southeastern Illinois. He says the oil and gas industry has already invested in excess of $200,000,000 on hydraulic fracturing in the region.