Comprehensive Fracking Regulatory Bill Passed by Illinois General Assembly
SPRINGFIELD, May 31, 2013 /3BL Media/ - The Illinois Senate voted on May 31 to support SB1715 with a vote of 52-3-4 and established the most comprehensive set of hydraulic fracturing regulations in the nation. SB1715, the Hydraulic Fracturing Regulatory Act passed the Illinois House on May 30 with a vote of 108-9. The bill will need to be signed by the Governor.
High volume horizontal hydraulic fracturing, otherwise known as “fracking,” is an industrial process used to extract oil and natural gas from shale. Use of this technology in other states with little or no fracking regulation has been associated with complaints about water and air pollution, well contamination, and industrialization of rural areas, among many issues.
SB1715 is the result of intense negotiations among environmental organizations, business and industry groups, the Attorney General’s office, the Governor’s office, the Department of Natural Resources, Illinois Environmental Protection Agency, and many other interested parties over the last year. The environmental community engaged with the talks after efforts to pass fracking moratorium failed last year and it became clear that such a moratorium was not politically viable in Illinois.
The passage of SB 1715 fills a vacuum in the regulation of high volume fracking, a practice that has already started in Illinois. This bill requires public notice, provides for transparency, and establishes legal standing to challenge frackers. The environmental community will work tirelessly to see these regulations are fully enforced and will work with the communities where fracking occurs to push for environmental protection and public health safeguards.
“SB 1715 is a bill that can be fairly characterized as the most comprehensive fracturing legislation in the nation,” said Jen Walling, Executive Director of the Illinois Environmental Council. “It includes ground-breaking provisions to protect water quality, ensure public access to information, and allow public oversight of hydraulic fracturing in the state. While environmentalists did not get everything we wanted in the bill, it does include much of what we believe is needed to protect water quality and public health and safety.”
“We believe that the regulations in this bill are strong and go a long way to protect the environment of Illinois. Continued vigilance will be needed to insure that they are enforced and respected," said Rev. Dr. Butterfield, Executive Director of Faith in Place. "We are glad to have been able to play a role in negotiating such a strong bill after our three-year investment in this issue and grateful to all our colleagues at other agencies who stood by and improved the bill, through all the difficulties.”
Key among these provisions to protect the environment are the following:
- Waste water must be stored in closed-loop tanks rather than open pits, except in rare emergency circumstances.
- Well and surface water must be tested before fracturing and must be monitored after fracturing. If contamination is shown, the operator is presumed liable.
- Comprehensive information about chemicals used must be disclosed both before and after fracking. Trade secrets disclosed to DNR and health professionals.
- Robust opportunities for public participation and opportunities for citizens to enforce the law.
This bill also includes strong well construction standards, a ban on injecting diesel compounds, setbacks from, among other things, homes, schools, rivers and lakes, well plugging requirements, a water management plan which describes how water withdrawals will be minimized, natural gas flaring requirements to minimize air pollution, and well plugging requirements.
The Illinois Environmental Council (IEC) is a non-partisan 37 year-old organization that promotes sound environmental laws and policies, provides a forum for environmentalists and facilitates a statewide activist network. IEC performs legislative advocacy and serves as the environmental community’s eyes, ears and voice in Springfield.