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Guest Column: Fracking in Illinois under proposed rules is unacceptable
By Douglas Campbell
The Illinois Department of Natural Resources (IDNR) is taking public comment on the proposed rules for fracking in Illinois through Jan. 3, 2014. It is important that the people of Illinois let them know fracking in Illinois under the proposed rules is unacceptable.
Food and Water Watch has a website form to send to the IDNR. There are only two ways to affect the outcome when it comes to legislation: money or a large number of people. The oil and gas industry has spent the money and, without a lot of people working against this legislation, it will go into effect.
The movies Gasland and Gasland 2 detail the consequences to the environment if fracking is allowed. Fracking causes permanent damage to drinking water supplies, groundwater, air pollution and can even cause earthquakes. These new rules will virtually guarantee Illinois’ groundwater, our most essential resource, will be contaminated with cancer-causing fracking chemicals, hydrocarbon gases and even radioactive brines.
New oil and gas wells with cement or casing failures, aging or abandoned wells with their own leaky casings, new fractures from fracking, and existing natural fractures and faults all combine to create a network of underground pathways through which contaminants can flow.
Specifically, in the proposed rules, Sections 245.210 [at (a)(6) and at (a)(7), 245.815 at (b)] and 245.1010 introduce an arbitrary and grossly inadequate measure to protect against so-called frack hits, when new fractures from fracking intersect with aging and abandoned wells. According to these sections, to be permitted in Illinois under the proposed rules, operators would only have to worry about frack hits on existing wells that are within 750 feet of the proposed well (measured as the minimum distance between any two points along two respective boreholes). And even then, they only need to consider those existing wells if they were drilled to within 400 feet of the rock formation that the new well would target.
This regulation is obviously inadequate.
Just this past September, in New Mexico, fracking at one well blew fluids out of a neighboring wellhead located a half-mile away. That’s 2,640 feet away!
Section 245.210(a)(6)(A) also reveals how vague the criteria for fracking permits are. Very little is known about the connectivity of contamination pathways below ground. However, we do know that widespread drilling and fracking will expand these pathways, creating new routes for contamination that we may not see for decades.
As for the massive volumes of toxic waste generated by drilling and fracking, there are no good options for disposing of it. Injecting it back underground is the industry’s favored option, as the proposed rules anticipate, but regardless of the rules, the risk that Illinois will be struck by damaging earthquakes will increase as a consequence of such disposal.
There are several other problems that the proposed regulations only begin to address. However, these problems would best be avoided with an outright ban on fracking.
Douglas Campbell is a resident of Rockford.
From the Dec. 11-17, 2013, issue