Fast-track fracking bill dead, companies wait on IDNR

June 11, 2014
Fracking-USE

By Jim Hagerty
Staff Writer

A bill aimed to skip the rule-drafting process and begin fracking in Illinois recently died in the hands of legislators.

The bill would have allowed fracking to begin while rules for the practice were still being drafted. It would have also imposed a moratorium in northern Illinois.

According to fracking legislation passed last June, oil and gas drilling cannot begin until the rules are drafted. The law has placed the Illinois Department of Natural Resources (IDNR) in charge of overseeing the practice. Since last year, lawmakers have accused the department of sandbagging the process. The IDNR has until November to complete the rules. That’s a wait Illinois Rep. John Bradley, D-Marion, says is too long.

Bradley introduced the bill to leapfrog the rules three weeks ago, hoping to oust the IDNR for guidelines he drafted with environmentalist and business groups.

Lawmakers, however, say the bill has no industry support and will not advance. That means the rules will stay in the hands of the IDNR. Supporters say the lack of backing helps proliferate a politically driven effort to complicate the process.

(Fast-tracked) fracking will bring a windfall of jobs to Illinois — billions in new revenue to the state of Illinois and downstate communities,” state Rep. David Reis, R-Willow Hill, said. “Politically driven delays by the governor and his administration and departments are single-handedly stymieing this process, this economic boom.”

Meanwhile, the November deadline is not sitting well with unions, which could be a hurdle for Quinn in coming months. Reps say the state is missing revenue by waiting on the IDNR.

The IDNR says it is on schedule. After weeding through thousands of public comments, officials plan to meet its fall deadline.

We are making good progress,” IDNR Spokesman Chris Young said. “We took between 30,000 and 35,000 comments. We received comments from local and state governments, industry professionals and environmental groups. From those comments, we identified 140 issues that are being addressed. The rules will be forwarded to JACAR (Joint Committee on Administrative Rules).”

The IDNR has until Nov. 15 to complete the rules. The Joint Committee has 45 days to accept them or request changes.

Let’s move hydraulic fracturing out of the hands of the state’s bureaucracy and put it into the hands of the Illinois economy,” Laborer’s International Union Spokesman Sean Stott said.

Shifting control away from the IDNR could benefit the private sector, but there’s no guarantee. From a lobbying standpoint, the state could be a sitting duck, pushing Quinn and the IDNR against the wall whenever the rules are published.

I don’t see an advantage of pushing it along any faster,” Illinois Renewable Energy Association President Bob Vogl said. “But, this could have been with the IEPA, because they oversee all of the energy and environmental pollution. But, it was removed and given to the DNR. So, there is a lot of pressure to make this happen.”

A similar effort is being pushed in southern Illinois, something downstate legislators say could shore up drilling plans before this fall. Lawmakers say a fast-tracked plan is vital to prevent companies from looking elsewhere for investment opportunities.

State Rep. Brandon Phelps, D-Harrisburg, said, “The rulemaking delays are pushing companies to rethink their investments in Illinois.”

From the June 11-17, 2014, issue

5 Comments

  1. Paul Gorski

    June 11, 2014 at 6:20 am

    First, establishing the rules before allowing a process to begin is standard operating procedure. Issuing permits or licenses for certain operations is usually contingent on whether or not all the rules will be met. If you have no rules, you do not have a basis for issuing licenses or permits.

    For those people interested in environmental protection laws as they relate to fracking; Bob Vogl is partly correct when stating that the Illinois EPA is responsible for overseeing environmental pollution laws. The IEPA is involved in the permitting of certain operations that have an environmental impact. The Illinois Pollution Control Board (IPCB) is the official authority for adopting Illinois’ environmental regulations and deciding contested violations of those regulations.

    In practical terms, the IEPA or IDNR could refer to the Illinois Attorney General a suspected violation of environmental law, but those laws are administered by the IPCB. If you had a complaint about fracking-caused pollution, you could go to the IDNR or IEPA and ask them to forward the case to the Attorney General, but if they refused to do that, you could go directly to the IPCB to challenge the violation.

    The fracking rules being considered by the IDNR relate more to the how and where to frack, as to not violate any existing law (environmental or other). Since those laws are already in place, and public comment has been made, the IDNR should be able to develop the basic rules now. The IDNR has the authority to amend those rules in the future, as long as the rules are consistent with law.

    Sincerely,

    Paul Gorski

  2. Dan Walker

    June 11, 2014 at 12:06 pm

    Mr. Gorski, the IEPA certainly does oversee energy and environmental pollution. Not sure at all what you are talking about here.

  3. Paul Gorski

    June 11, 2014 at 1:04 pm

    Dan Walker,

    The IEPA in involved in the permitting of of these facilities and oversees environmental pollution, but the Illinois Pollution Control Board is responsible for the adoption of environment regulations and deciding disputed violations. The IPCB also hears appeals to IEPA siting decisions and appeals of IEPA administrative decisions. Also, if you do not get satisfaction on a claimed environmental complaint by working with the IEPA, you may file a complaint directly with the IPCB.

    Regarding the IPCB I quote:
    “The Board hears various other types of cases, including requests for variances, adjusted standards and other types of relief from Board regulations and trade secret claims. The Board also has authority to conduct inquiry hearings on any issue of environmental concern. See 35 Ill. Adm. Code 102.112.”

    Furthermore, the Illinois EPA does not have “an active” industrial, environmental noise pollution program. These laws can be enforced by local law enforcement, but the case would likely be first heard by the IPCB, with appeals heard in the courts. (So if a factory, or fracking operation is making too much noise, the IEPA would generally refer you to local law enforcement and or the IPCB.)

    Also, The Office of the State Fire Marshall oversees regulation of underground storage tanks. If a tank is found to be leaking, it is then referred to the IEPA for evaluation.

    The IDNR, through the Office of Mines and Minerals (OMM) oversees the permits for coal and mineral mining. (And apparently now gas fracking.) According to the IEPA, the “The Illinois EPA’s Mine Pollution Control Unit works with the OMM in controlling pollution from mining activities.”

    So in the IEPA own words, the IEPA is not the end all to environmental law oversight and enforcement of mining operation, of which fracking is one.

    I received my crash course in IEPA, IDNR and IPCB jurisdictions when investigating land fill odor complaints, beginning in 2008. If you believe I’ve misinterpreted what I have largely quoted from these agencies respective websites, let me know.

    Thank you for reading the Rock River Times.

    Sincerely,

    Paul Gorski

  4. Douglas Campbell

    June 14, 2014 at 11:00 am

    Regardless of the state agencies and rules, fracking needs to be banned from Illinois and elsewhere, period. This industry has been hiding the truth and buying law and policy makers for ten years now. Anybody that has seen all the negative effects of this practice cannot support it. The latest information-From Years of Living Dangerously- is these fracking sites emit huge amounts of methane (greenhouse gas) and other pollutants into the air so industry claims of fracking lowering greenhouse gas emission is totally false. Plans to convert and export this gas is going to drive up demand and prices. If you see an ad for fracking or most mainstream news reports on television, you can believe the exact opposite to be true.

  5. Paul Gorski

    June 17, 2014 at 10:41 am

    Douglas Campbell,

    If you have facts to support your claims, challenge the fracking site developments (once sited) by filing a claim with Illinois Pollution Control Board. I think that board means well, but the members are appointed by politicians, so your results on a challenge may vary, depending who you are challenging.

    Paul Gorski

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