Word was going around over the Memorial Day weekend that a bill to regulate hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, in Illinois was in trouble because it had lost the support of key environmental groups.
Fracking opponents were saying the Sierra Club and the Natural Resources Defense Council in Illinois were switching their support from the regulatory bill to a two-year moratorium.
But that hasn't happened. The major environmental groups still support the fracking bill, which is a compromise worked out between industry and environmentalists, and which Gov. Pat Quinn says would provide the strongest environmental protections in the nation. (Not that other states have set a particularly high bar.)
The confusion appears to stem from the Sierra Club's recent affirmation of its longtime position that it would prefer a two-year moratorium on fracking, a new combination of technologies that permits extraction of previously inaccessible oil and natural gas. Two major studies will be completed next year that will tell us more about the effects of fracking. One is a large-scale study of health effects in Pennsylvania. The other is a U.S. EPA national assessment of the fracking technology. A moratorium would provide a chance to evaluate the results of those studies before setting Illinois policy.
The problem is that a bill providing for a moratorium is stuck in committee and appears to be going nowhere. Without a moratorium -- and with no regulatory bill -- Illinois could become the home of unregulated fracking. Environmentalists say acecdotal evidence indicates that's already happening.
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