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Illinois House passes fracking bill

Illinois GovernorJustice SystemEnergy ResourcesPetroleum IndustryEnvironmental Politics

The Illinois House passed legislation Thursday evening that would regulate horizontal hydraulic fracturing in the state in a 108 to 9 vote.

The legislation now moves to the Senate, the final hurdle for the bill before it reaches Gov. Pat Quinn, who urged the Senate to send the bill to his desk "as soon as possible."

"Today's passage of hydraulic fracturing legislation in the House brings good news for jobs, economic development and environmental protection in Illinois. This legislation will unlock the potential for thousands of jobs in Southern Illinois, while ensuring that our state has the nation's strongest environmental protections in place for this industry," Quinn said.

Fracking is an energy drilling process that uses large amounts of fluid under high-pressure to force to the surface oil and gas that is trapped under the ground. 

Under the legislation companies who wish to "frack" for oil and gas in Illinois will be subjected to some of the toughest disclosure laws in the country.

The state is preparing itself for a potential oil boom. Proponents say fracking will bring jobs, tax dollars and investment to parts of the state that desperately need them and that the drilling can be done safely.

Energy companies have leases on land that is more than triple the size of Chicago, hoping that fracking technology can unleash billions of dollars worth of oil trapped beneath southern Illinois in the New Albany shale formation. Most said they were waiting to invest in drilling operations here until regulations were known.

The Natural Resources Defense Council disclosed evidence this week that at least one energy firm  already has engaged in fracking in Illinois.

Until the law is signed, there is no requirement to disclose the practice, which uses massive amount of sand, chemicals and water to force out oil and gas from where it is trapped in rock.

Under new regulations which would take effect as soon as Quinn signs them into law, companies who wish to frack for oil or gas – defined as the high-pressure injection of 80,000 gallons of fracking fluid or more to force out oil or gas from where it is trapped in rock – must disclose a wealth of new information to the public, which has the opportunity to appeal permits and launch lawsuits against energy firms who attempt to skirt the law.

Environmental groups who helped hash out the bill say they would have preferred a moratorium on fracking.

The law does not allow for decision-making on fracking issues by counties, which has ruffled some feathers in southern Illinois because fracking is expected to occur in mostly unincorporated areas. And while the law would impose new taxes on oil drillers, most tax dollars wouldn't reach communities until at least a year after drilling begins, according to an analysis performed for the Tribune. What's more, rural communities with fracking operations would receive fewer taxes than would flow into the state's coffers.

Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun
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Illinois GovernorJustice SystemEnergy ResourcesPetroleum IndustryEnvironmental Politics
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