The Illinois Department of Natural Resources released a long-awaited plan Friday to regulate high-volume oil and gas drilling that supporters hope could bring an economic boost to southern Illinois but environmentalists fear may be too lenient.
The lengthy report follows months of delays and complaints over the process to draft rules governing hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, in Illinois. Industry officials say southern Illinois has rich deposits of natural gas, but a final draft of the rules — initially touted as a national model of both sides working together — has taken months for the agency to produce as industry groups warned the state was losing business.
A 150-page report was given to the 12-member Joint Committee on Administrative Rules, which has 45 days to act, or the rules can take effect. Environmental groups, industry experts and lawmakers also got their first look at the report Friday, and some said they expect to spend hours, possibly days, combing through the details.
“These are highly technical rules that will require a really close look at the details,” Josh Mogerman, spokesman for the Natural Resources Defense Council, said earlier Friday. “Our experts are going to be spending their holiday weekend going through these rules with a fine tooth comb.”
The new rules would require companies awarded drilling permits to submit lists, some of them redacted, of the chemicals used in fracking. The redacted list would be made available to the public by department and be submitted to the public health department. The industry says releasing the full list would expose trade secrets.
In issuing drilling permits, the department would be required to determine within one day whether an applicant had fully completed the necessary forms. The department would then have 60 days to approve or reject an application.
Hydraulic fracturing uses a mixture of water, chemicals and sand to crack open rock formations thousands of feet underground to release trapped oil and gas. Opponents fear it will pollute and deplete groundwater or cause health problems, while the industry insists the method is safe and will cause the same economic surge that oil booms have created in other states.