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Slow-walking by IDNR spurs attempt to strip it of its fracking regulatory powers

Monday, May 26, 2014

* AP

Gov. Pat Quinn’s administration has affirmed its support for the state Department of Natural Resources’ efforts to craft rules governing hydraulic fracturing, saying the process ensures that the public, advocates and experts all have the chance to weigh in.

Saturday’s statement from the governor’s office came a day after Democratic state Rep. John Bradley proposed legislation to jump-start fracking through a measure that would skip that rule-making process. […]

Grant Klinzman, a Quinn spokesman, said the administration takes hydraulic fracturing very seriously and is “making sure it is done right,” adding that the DNR has done “an unprecedented amount of work to ensure the public, advocates and experts all have a voice in the process.”

* More

“There’s no delay,” said Jennifer Walling, executive director at the Illinois Environment Council. “This whole idea of a delay has been manufactured.”

* I beg to differ

Illinois Department of Natural Resources Director Marc Miller told the Tribune in a recent interview that the agency received 35,000 comments on its first draft of the rules, all of which it must respond to under the law. […]

IDNR held five lengthy public hearings on the proposed rules, which have about 100 different sections and are hundreds of pages long. Miller said they are done addressing about 25 percent of the areas at issue.

25 percent? The comment period ended the first week of January and they’re only 25 percent of the way through? At that rate, there’s no way they’ll meet their November deadline. It’ll be next spring if IDNR continues at this glacial pace.

Not to mention that many, if not most, of those comments were almost identical to each other, ginned up by interest groups on both sides.

* From an action alert sent out by a group that wants a total fracking moratorium…

On this Memorial Day holiday, the oil industry is attempting to hijack the democratic rule-making process that governs fracking regulations in Illinois. They’re trying to pass amendments to the fracking legislation that would direct the Department of Natural Resources to ignore more than 35,000 comments submitted by the people of Illinois demanding strong regulation and allow industry to begin fracking immediately!

Elected legislators are attempting to hijack a “democratic” rule-making process run by unelected people? Um, OK.

* With all that being said, there are some very legitimate environmental concerns about Bradley’s proposal

Filed just one week before the Legislature adjourns its spring session, the legislation would skip a rule-making process by the IDNR. Environmental groups interpret the bill as stripping that power away from the state agency and leaving it in the hands of the Legislature itself.

The bill also would establish a moratorium on fracking in northern Illinois counties, though there is limited drilling potential there compared with the central and southern parts of the state. […]

Environmental activists said the legislation would hurt the state’s ability to impose critical controls on a practice with the potential to pollute water and cause other ecological damage. […]

“It does certainly appear to remove the authority of the Department of Natural Resources to adopt any rules, and move that authority to the Legislature to define how fracking is going to be carried out in Illinois,” said Jennifer Cassel, a staff attorney with the Environmental Law and Policy Center.

- Posted by Rich Miller        

  1. - Fed up - Monday, May 26, 14 @ 1:44 pm:

    Very similar to the incompetence displayed by Thea gaming board in getting licensees approved. Cost the state millions. I mean it’s not like the state needs the money. Quinn claims that the pensions need to be changed in an unconstitutional way by using emergency powers because the state is so broke. Yet, his administrations incompetence is costing the state millions in revenues. His actions undermine his defense in the pension lawsuit.

  2. - 4 percent - Monday, May 26, 14 @ 1:54 pm:

    The environmental community has buyers remorse and is now looking to delay or kill the industry. ELPC publicly states on its website that Illinois has the toughest law in the country. DNR doesn’t need hundreds of pages of rules because the Assembly was very prescriptive.

  3. - Keyser Soze - Monday, May 26, 14 @ 2:17 pm:

    The 35,000 comments most likely say the same two or three things 35,000 times. This represents an impressive effort by the greenies. But, it is also an obvious stunt and should be recognized as such, and addressed as such. The 34,900 comments that say essentially the same thing should receive a form letter response. DNR would be enhanced if it were to dispense with the pretentious handwringing.

  4. - Judgment Day - Monday, May 26, 14 @ 2:23 pm:

    One area that is a real sticking point is that the fracking law as exists applies a large number of regulations which are surface based (Ex.: All properties being 500′ from the drilling path, which could extend out several miles) to a subsurface working environment. Remember, the fracking folks are working several miles below the surface.

    It’s likely to be huge, massive record keeping involved (personally, potentially very good for me!), but at some point, it becomes impractical.

    Just as a point, CMS can’t even put together a list of all the properties owned by the State of Illinois - and they’ve been legislatively required to do so for at least the last 10 years.

    So, we want IL DNR to apply all surface rights data to all fracking sub-surface data? Not just geo-physical data, but also attribute data from a number of different sources? Good luck with that one. I’m not sure they (DNR) have figured out how to use a #2 pencil - or which end to sharpen….

  5. - transplant - Monday, May 26, 14 @ 3:14 pm:

    Reading about the 35,000 individual responses that must be made, reminds me of Navin Johnson personally writing and mailing each check for damages from his “opti-grab.”

  6. - Anon Again - Monday, May 26, 14 @ 7:33 pm:

    Miller is incompetent - scandal after scandal - this is just latest twist. Time for him to hit the fishing tournament circuit with his deputy minus the sick leave….

  7. - Precinct Captain - Monday, May 26, 14 @ 8:23 pm:

    So we want a legal process for reviewing comments, but we don’t want to give agencies the staff to go through them in an adequate manner. If the GA intended to be entirely prescriptive, it wouldn’t have left rules for DNR to make up, it would have put them in statute books. The delays are not acceptable, but a rule-free process by the GA isn’t either.

  8. - Theycallmebruce - Monday, May 26, 14 @ 8:46 pm:

    Miller is a very nice man. He’s just not a manager. I would never let him run a department in one of my companies.

  9. - Hamilton - Monday, May 26, 14 @ 9:16 pm:

    Bradley’s bill on the Governor’s desk slows the IDNR even more. What the heck is Bradley thinking?

  10. - Judgment Day - Monday, May 26, 14 @ 10:45 pm:

    “If the GA intended to be entirely prescriptive, it wouldn’t have left rules for DNR to make up, it would have put them in statute books. The delays are not acceptable, but a rule-free process by the GA isn’t either.”

    ‘rule-free process’? That’s funny. You obviously haven’t read the existing law. It contains ‘rules and procedures’ for ‘rules and procedures’, with additional ‘rules and procedures’ for reference, just in case.

    For example, if you are an IEPA approved water testing lab, you could make out really well (no pun intended).

    “…a rule-free process…” - that’s a strawman argument. Just go read the existing law.

  11. - Name Withheld - Tuesday, May 27, 14 @ 8:43 am:

    What’s the staffing like at DNR? Are we possibly dealing with a situation where they simply don’t have the manpower to wade through all of those comments? Until you get through all of them, you don’t know how many ‘duplicates’ you’ve got.

    I did some quick back-of-the-napkin math. Let’s assume the goal was to get through the comments in, say 6 months. 6 months roughly equals 2510 work hours (assuming 5020 work hours in a year). At 35,000 comments, that works out to about 14 comments evaluated per hour (13.944 and change - to be exact), or about 111 comments per 8-hour day. That seems like a lot to wade through, especially when you factor in evaluating whether the comment is like any other comments that have been received.

    I’m not defending DNR by any shot, I’m just pointing out the very real time challenges in meeting a goal like that. When you in turn consider staffing levels at agencies and the reduction in state workforce, I can see problems in completing a task like this in a timely fashion.

  12. - Environmental Engineer - Tuesday, May 27, 14 @ 11:24 am:

    I was responsible for drafting comments to a set of federal EPA regulations back a few decades ago. It’s just not that hard, and the idea that it would take a year to do so is ridiculous. Also, I attended two of the five public hearings, and, using them as an indicator, the vast majority of comments can be lumped into perhaps three categories and addressed en mass. I suspect there are no more than two dozen comment submittals that contain any content that relates directly to the IDNR’s responsibilities to develop administrative rules rather than wanting different legislation or an outright ban on hydraulic fracturing. That is not within the IDNR’s scope.

Sorry, comments for this post are now closed.

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