Long-anticipated rules that would govern a new fracking industry in Illinois, are expected to become public Friday.
Those rules could be approved as early as next month, opening the door to oil and gas drillers to apply for permits to begin drilling the state’s shale rock in search of oil reserves. Lawmakers are hoping that an oil boom in the southern part of the state will fatten state coffers with oil revenue and bring jobs to a struggling downstate economy.
The Illinois Department of Natural Resources has been sifting through more than 35,000 comments that were launched at its first draft of the rules, which were based on legislation passed more than a year ago. It faces a November deadline to structure the law.
State Sen. Don Harmon, D-Oak Park, co-chairman of the Illinois Legislature’s Joint Committee on Administrative Rules, said IDNR has said it expects to drop the rules off with the committee Friday. The obscure committee’s approval is the final step in a multi-year effort to regulate horizontal hydraulic fracturing in Illinois, defined as 80,000 gallons of fluid or more injected into underground rock formations to extract oil and gas.
* Attorney Lawrence Falbe thinks there could be a large number of anti-fracking protesters at September’s JCAR meeting, and told me this…
While this puts fracking back in the news, which I think many people think Quinn has been trying to avoid by having IDNR slow-walk the regulations, the fact is that even if JCAR approves the regs at its September meeting, there is still a long way to go before any drilling actually occurs, since very detailed information must be included in the permit applications and will take time to compile, and it’s very likely objectors will force public hearings on at least the first batch of permits.
There will probably be a lot of attention on JCAR and its members, and how they approach this, but it’s pretty much out of Quinn’s hands at this point, so it will be interesting to see if he still gets heat from the enviros.
* And this is from a memo penned by Falbe and a colleague for clients…
The end result of this is that final fracking regulations reasonably should be expected to be approved and in place by mid-October. That means the process of accepting permit applications and issuing permits can then begin. However, as both the statute and the regulations provide, any company wishing to submit a permit application must register 30 days before submitting the permit request. Moreover, those planning to apply for a permit should also anticipate having to defend objections to the permit in a public hearing, which can be demanded by objectors to such a permit after meeting some fairly minimal standards to show potential harm, should the permit be issued.
In summary, the regulation of fracking in Illinois has been a long and convoluted process, but there is now light at the end of the tunnel. Significant hurdles will still need to be overcome by those who seek permits, as the fracking objectors are poised and ready to repeat their onslaught against the first group of permit seekers. Carefully crafting a robust permit application, supported by sound science and expert testimony, and preparing a persuasive public hearing presentation that will withstand and refute the expected objections, will be the next challenge faced by permit seekers in Illinois.