* One of the main reasons that I felt comfortable with the new fracking regulatory law was that the Illinois Sierra Club was at the negotiating table and agreed to the final cut.
But if the Sierra Club is this unhappy with the proposed Illinois Department of Natural Resources regulations, well, now I’m very uncomfortable indeed…
Six months ago, Gov. Pat Quinn signed into law legislation that had passed by wide margins in both houses to regulate fracking, or hydrauling fracturing. The bill was the result of an agreement hammered out between drilling interests and environmentalists, and Quinn boasted it gave Illinois the best environmental protections in the nation.
But the devil is always in the details. It’s the Department of Natural Resources’ job to translate more than 100 pages of legislation into rules governing fracking. It’s complicated because no one is allowed to talk to each other ex parte, i.e., in private.
When the DNR put out a first draft of the regulations, no one was very happy, as often happens with complicated legislation. Environmentalists thought the rules were weaker than the compromise legislation envisioned, and the drilling industry had its own objections. And some grass-roots environmentalists have been complaining all along that the mainline environmental groups that participated in the legislative negotiations caved.
“We do think the DNR needs to go back to the drawing board on these rules because they are not as strong as the law,” said Jack Darin, director of the Sierra Club’s Illinois chapter. “We viewed the law as a floor, not a ceiling, in terms of protections. … Given the consequences of a mistake or an accident and the great difficulty of remediating contaminated groundwater, we need to make sure these rules are as strong as possible from the get-go. … We don’t think these rules are good enough to protect the public.”
The Sierra Club has been barraged with criticism by fringe groups on this issue, so it’s possible that things have just gotten too hot for the organization.
But Jack Darin stuck his neck way, way out on this thing, so DNR needs to accommodate his concerns as much as humanly possible.
*** UPDATE *** The Illinois Manufacturers’ Association claims that some groups are attempting to use the rules process to renegotiate the bill. From an IMA letter to DNR…