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Illinois Fracking Debate: Silence Before the Storm in Springfield

Henry Henderson

Posted April 17, 2013

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There has been a peculiar silence out of Springfield as it relates to fracking.

And that is a problem.

As I’ve noted previously, there are virtually no laws governing hydraulic fracturing in this state. As it stands now, anyone with a hundred bucks can get a permit  and within two days, frack to their heart’s content. Obviously, the status quo is completely untenable for anyone who cares about the health, safety and economy of Illinois. Especially as a land lease tsunami has raged in portions of the state for would-be-frackers to accumulate fracking rights on other people’s property.

So as discussions stall in Springfield, the interests of Illinoisans are left flapping in the wind, with entire communities completely and unacceptably exposed to the array of well known risks associated with the controversial oil and gas extraction technique.

We must do better. And it had looked like that was the intention as the General Assembly began addressing the problem. Progress was made to better protect the public, private property and the health and safety of people.

But the momentum seems to have plateaued, and we are left with potentially the worst possible outcome: the Legislature mired in other problems, and neither the regulatory bill, nor proposed moratorium bills, moving forward.

This would leave the vagaries of “business uncertainty” about possible future regulations or Common Law litigation, as the only lines of protection left for many in the state. And at least one company has already planned to forge ahead before the end of the second quarter.

As things stand, Illinoisans health and livelihoods are in harms’ way. There is certainly time between now and the end of the Legislative session in May when many of the meatiest issues are traditionally addressed. But this uncertainty has many concerned that Illinois is failing to heed the hard-learned lessons from other states that failed to put tough protections in place before very risky, uncontrolled fracking moves forward in this state, and risks manifest themselves, irrevocably, in our communities.

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Michael BerndtsonApr 18 2013 09:22 AM

Here's an oldie but goody from the Illinois State Geologic Survey prepared in 1982: Natural Gas Potential of the New Albany Shale Group (Devonian-Mississippian) in Southeastern Illinoi)

In conclusion (my paraphrasing), not much gas of commercial value based on core data and analysis. Conventional techniques would be useless. Unconventional techniques like formation stimulation by massive hydraulic fracturing, meh. Commercialization is outside the scope of this paper.

The only "technology" breakthrough for oil and gas exploitation over the past 10 years is regulatory workarounds at the federal level. With Obama and Muniz on record as super jazzed about natural gas, what's a broke prairie state to do? My gut wrenching opinion is that natural gas liquids and oil is interests down there. Not natural gas as a substitute for coal generation.

Aren't some of the biggest landholders in downstate Illinois some of the most prestigious upstate developers and financiers? Gentleman farmers and quail hunt partiers or something. Maybe they could help? Like a tie in with infrastructure?

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