Chicago Sun-Times
A dialog between Sun-Times opinion writers and our readers

Why fracking pact is stalled in the Legislature

| 1 Comment | No TrackBacks

FRACKING-1.JPGOutdoor enthusiasts, tourists, climbers and backpackers at Garden of the Gods Wilderness Area near Herod, Ill. Southern Illinoisans have hopes and fears surrounding the high-volume oil and gas drilling that may be starting in the Shawnee National Forest. (Seth Perlman~AP)

UPDATE 11:15 AM MAY 21, 2013: The Illinois House Executive Committee unanimously passed the Hydraulic Fracturing Regulation Act (Senate Bill 1715).

After a year of negotiations over hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, in Illinois, a compromise that could be a model for the nation is snagged over a simple question.

What exactly is fracking, anyway?

Fracking is a new blend of older technologies that accesses previously unavailable oil and natural gas. You could try defining it like pornography: You know it when you see it. But that's not good enough for industry - which wants to ensure traditional drilling isn't suddenly hampered by new regulations - or for environmentalists, who fear some fracking companies might try to dodge new environmental protections by claiming what they are doing isn't fracking after all.

A group of people representing the various sides of the issue is scheduled to meet Friday morning to see if they can hammer out a definition that satisfies everyone.

Everyone thought they had a deal earlier this year after months of discussions among industry, environmentalists, the Illinois Department of Natural Resources, labor, staff members for the Senate and House leadership, key legislators and the Illinois attorney general. Gov. Pat Quinn hailed what they came up with as a model for the nation.

Then the operating engineers' union threw a monkey wrench into the deal by insisting on changes that would benefit their members. That's been addressed with a small tax break that encourages frackers to hire Illinois workers.

So now all that remains is to settle the definition of fracking. The issue came up after environmentalists saw language used in Colorado that seemed to open a loophole in Illinois' working definition, which is based on water use.

Other fracking bills introduced in this session would create a moratorium for two years, allowing more research into the environmental and health effects of fracking. But the moratorium doesn't have much momentum in Springfield.

In fact, all the fracking bills have missed deadlines and on paper appear dead for now. But if negotiators can work out a revised deal, enough major players would be behind it to push it through anyway, using the usual legislative tricks.

A solution could come Friday. If not, talks could drag on for a long time.

Follow BackTalk on Twitter@CST_Editorials

No TrackBacks

TrackBack URL:

1 Comment

Your photo caption is not correct. "...drilling in the Shawnee National Forest..." is inaccurate. There is no drilling proposed in the national forest. Without Federal legislation and leasing, there NEVER could be drilling in any national forest. Much of the anticipated activity in SE Illinois, where oil companies have been leasing land, is in counties considerably north of the Shawnee National Forest.

Leave a comment

About this Entry

This page contains a single entry by Thomas Frisbie published on May 9, 2013 4:47 PM.

Burge torture investigations take a step forward was the previous entry in this blog.

Nuclear waste plan poses risks for Illinois is the next entry in this blog.

Find recent content on the main index or look in the archives to find all content.