Industry and Environmental Groups Compromise on Illinois Fracking Bill
Two Illinois legislators have introduced what they call a compromise bill to regulate hydraulic fracturing in the state. Many environmental activists groups tout the bill as creating the strongest regulatory framework in the nation, but other activist groups say fracking should not be allowed under any circumstances.
Rep. John Bradley (D-Marion) and Rep. David Reis (R-Ste. Marie), introduced the 94-page Hydraulic Fracturing Regulatory Act. The Act would establish environmental and permitting restrictions not imposed in any other state. The bill is the product of several weeks of negotiation Bradley facilitated between industry representatives and environmental activist groups.
“The bill is a step in the right direction and would allow Illinois to benefit from the economic boost provided by responsible development of the New Albany Shale,” said Kyna Legner, Illinois field director for Energy in Depth, an educational research program of the Independent Petroleum Association of America.
“We know that safe development exists, and it is encouraging to see lawmakers, industry representatives, labor and business organizations, and environmental groups focused on a path forward for Illinois,” Legner added.
A Few Radicals Still Oppose
Some environmental groups, such as Southern Illinoisans Against Fracturing our Environment (SAFE), maintain only a statewide moratorium on hydraulic fracturing can sufficiently protect the environment.
Although SAFE’s position received a significant amount of publicity from the local media, Legner says their refusal to compromise on the moratorium position as other environmental groups did, such as the Natural Resources Defense Council, reveals irrational extremism.
“I think this shows, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that the ‘ban hydraulic fracturing’ crowd is completely out of touch with reality,” said Legner. “We know we can do this safely, and we know from other states' experiences that a strong but fair regulatory regime helps ensure responsible development. The fact that so many different groups are on board with this legislation only further marginalizes the small but noisy groups who so desperately want the public to ignore the facts about hydraulic fracturing.”
Industry Compromised on Bill
Legner says industry representatives compromised quite a bit in agreeing to unprecedented restrictions, but she expressed satisfaction the various groups were able to find common ground.
“It's not perfect legislation by any stretch, but inasmuch as it allows development to move forward, that's certainly a positive first step,” said Legner.
Last December the Illinois Chamber Foundation released a study reporting natural gas development from hydraulic fracturing could create up to 47,000 jobs and grow the state economy by $9 billion. Dr. David Loomis, director of the Center for Renewable Energy at Illinois State University, conducted the study.
Should the bill pass, Legner isn’t sure whether the strict regulatory framework will affect those jobs estimates.
“I think the Loomis study is still useful in understanding what shale development could mean for our economy,” Legner explained. “If other states' experiences are any indication, the jobs and economic impact numbers in that report could prove to be conservative, which is exactly what the authors stressed when it was released.”
Taylor Smith (email@example.com) is a policy analyst for The Heartland Institute.
Loomis, David G., “The Potential Economic Impact of New Albany Gas on the Illinois Economy,” December 2012, http://news.heartland.org/sites/default/files/illinois_fracking_study.pdf