* A new study conducted for the Illinois Chamber claims that fracking could bring big bucks and lots of jobs to Illinois…
Hydraulic fracturing in Southern Illinois has the potential to create more than 47,000 jobs and more than $9.5 billion in economic impact, according to a study released Thursday by the Illinois Chamber Foundation.
The study, conducted over the last four months, is the first of its kind to focus entirely on the state’s potential with regard to increased horizontal drilling and hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, the chamber said. The study, based on the potential of the state’s New Albany shale field, was administered by economist David Loomis, a professor at Illinois State University.
Laying out three possible scenarios for exploring natural gas production — low, medium and high — Mr. Loomis determined a range of economic outcomes that could benefit Illinois based on the amount of labor and equipment supplied from inside and outside the state.
Illinois Geological Survey Director Don McKay cautioned that the formation may never be capable of producing a boom, based on the work of the agency’s recently retired expert on the subject, David Morse.
“His assessment is that our New Albany Shale resource in Illinois probably doesn’t contain a lot of gas,” McKay said. “Our shale because of its geological history was not subjected to the high temperatures for the long range of time that would be required.”
Chamber member Tom Wolf said the business group hopes lawmakers consider those potential effects as they work on Senate Bill 3280. The legislation would set up regulations for hydraulic fracturing, which detractors call fracking, and other drilling techniques that would be used to explore the New Albany formation.
“The industry’s at the table because they want a road map that helps them in the long term,” Wolf said, adding that the oil and gas industry hopes to talk the state out of setting fees to mitigate wear and tear on roads and impacts on the environment before it knows what the formation might produce. “What I’m trying to avoid is impact fees and taxes based on the hope that this (drilling) will come about and that would scare people away.”
* Moody’s lowered Illinois’ credit outlook from “stable” to “negative” yesterday…
“The negative outlook reflects our view that the state’s pension funding pressures are likely to persist and perhaps worsen in the near term,” Moody’s said in its report. “Moreover, fiscal 2014 marks the last year before Illinois’ 2011 income tax increases are partly unwound, putting the state on track to deal with simultaneous growth in pension funding needs and loss of revenue.”
Moody’s also pointed out that any steps likely to be taken to reform the pension system will almost certainly be challenged because the state’s constitution protects retiree benefits.
But Moody’s kept the state’s abysmal rating in place. This was mainly just a warning shot across the General Assembly’s bow ahead of the January lame duck session.
* We covered this yesterday…
Gay marriage supporters said Thursday they are “within striking distance” of passing a bill that for the first time would let same-sex couples be legally wed in Illinois. […]
The two Chicago Democrats said they plan to put up the same-sex marriage bill for a vote, and they indicated they wouldn’t do that without believing it would pass. It’s a tough vote for some lawmakers to take.
The move carried the practical effect of mobilizing gay activists to lobby lawmakers over the holidays but also represented a tossing down of the gauntlet on the issue, revving up opponents for an intense battle. […]
[Robert Gilligan, executive director of the Catholic Conference of Illinois] knew of no lawmakers whose positions had switched from opposition to support of gay marriage