Illinois Poised to Lead on Fracking Regulations

High volume horizontal hydraulic fracturing, or “fracking” as it is more commonly known, is currently legal and inadequately regulated in Illinois. This has caused deep concern. Protestants for the Common Good has worked for the past few years with Faith in Place (which spearheaded this initiative) and other environmental allies to advocate for the strongest legislation possible to protect our state. Meanwhile, the oil and gas industry has increasingly invested millions of dollars in southern Illinois, leasing for drilling rights.

Fracking is a controversial method for extracting natural gas from deep levels of shale rock underneath aquifers. A well is drilled straight down then horizontally into the shale seam. A fracking mixture—made of more than a million gallons of water, sand, and a variety of toxic chemicals—is pumped at high pressure down into the well as far as 10,000 feet below the surface causing fissures in the shale to crack and release natural gas. Fracking has come under significant controversy in recent years as precious fresh-water aquifers have become contaminated and occasional earthquakes have resulted from vast volumes of waste water injections into the ground.

It is essential that Illinois moves quickly to get the strongest possible safeguards in place to protect residents and their water supplies. Your faithful emails, petitions, phone calls, and legislative visits in conjunction with the tireless efforts of our environmental partners resulted in serious negotiations that produced a bi-partisan regulatory bill introduced last week with support from the environmental community and industry.

If enacted, Illinois would lead the nation by having the strongest and most comprehensive fracking regulations in the country.

While we are not excited about fracking coming to Illinois, we did not believe that it was likely that the General Assembly would pass a moratorium this year. Therefore, the regulations in HB 2615 are robust enough to warrant our support. The Illinois Environmental Council, of which PCG is an affiliate, has a detailed analysis of the negotiation process and safeguards contained in the bill. Lawyers from the Natural Resources Defense Council and the Environmental Law and Policy Center, who helped to represent environmental groups in the negotiation, have also weighed in on the key protections, as well as the imperfections that are inevitable in a compromise.

Your faithful advocacy is needed as we continue to work with our coalition of Illinois environmental partners to ensure our state legislature passes the strongest environmental protections possible. We could not have come this far without your efforts. Thank you!

We are also grateful to the leaders who recognized the urgency of getting these safeguards in place: Representatives John Bradley (D-Marion), Barbara Flynn-Currie (D-Chicago), Naomi Jakobsson (D-Urbana), David Reis (R-Olney), Ann Williams (D-Chicago), Senator Michael Frerichs (D-Champaign), Governor Quinn’s Illinois Department of Natural Resources, and Attorney General Lisa Madigan’s team.

We will keep you updated as this legislation progresses. In the meantime, make plans to join hundreds of advocates from across the state for the Illinois Environmental Council’s annual Lobby Day in Springfield on May 2.