* Subscribers know a lot more about this, but here’s an AP story from earlier in the week…
Illinois’ powerful House speaker said Wednesday that he supports a moratorium on high-volume oil and gas drilling, weighing in on the issue one day before a House committee is scheduled to consider competing bills involving the practice.
It was unclear how much sway that Speaker Michael Madigan, a Chicago Democrat, would have over lawmakers’ decisions, especially since more than 50 House members already have signed on to a bill that would regulate hydraulic fracturing, or “fracking” - the key to jumpstarting the practice in Illinois. Some suggested his comments might be meant to pressure industry over drilling fees and taxes.
But environmentalists and landowners, who rallied at the Statehouse this week to urge lawmakers to impose a moratorium, said they welcome the support.
“We take the speaker at his word and hold him to it that he recognizes a moratorium as the only true way to protect public health and the environment from the rolling environmental disaster that fracking has been,” in other states, said Bruce Ratain, state policy associate with Environment Illinois. “This is what real leadership looks like.”
Madigan, who introduced a failed drilling moratorium last year, would not elaborate except to say, “read about what happened in Pennsylvania.” The issue there has become controversial, including over water quality near drilling sites.
* Environment Illinois praised Madigan’s announcement…
One day after nearly a hundred concerned citizens converged on Springfield, Ill., to call for a moratorium on fracking, House Speaker Mike Madigan, D-Chicago, announced March 13 his support for legislation to stop the dirty drilling technique in Illinois.
House Bill 3086 in the House (sponsored by state Rep. Deb Mell, D-Chicago) and Senate Bill 1418 (sponsored by state Sen. Mattie Hunter, D-Chicago) both call for a moratorium on fracking in Illinois, and are scheduled for committee hearings in Springfield.
“In state after state, fracking has been a rolling environmental disaster — contaminating drinking water, making nearby residents sick, and turning rural landscapes into industrial zones,” said Bruce Ratain, state policy associate for Environment Illinois. “We praise Speaker Madigan for looking carefully at the facts about fracking, and joining the growing call to keep it out of Illinois.”
Liz Patula, a member of SAFE (Southern Illinoisans Against Fracturing Our Environment), had the following response: “I said it yesterday in the Capitol and I will say it again today: New York’s Assembly just voted to extend its moratorium on fracking. Don’t the citizens of Illinois deserve the same protection?”
While in Springfield, activists also held a rally and press conference in the Capitol rotunda, and delivered materials or met with every legislator in the House and Senate.
* The following day came this announcement…
Backers of a measure to regulate high-volume gas and oil drilling in Illinois announced Thursday they have agreed on the fees and extraction taxes that drillers would pay the state if lawmakers approve a plan to regulate the practice.
Under the agreed rates, well operators also would pay a 3 percent-per-barrel extraction, or “severance,” tax during the first two years of operation. That tax would scale up after the second year, depending on the well’s average monthly production. The highest tax rate would be set at 6 percent.
Denzler told legislators he was “reticent” to estimate how much revenue fracking could generate for Illinois, because production among wells varies. But he provided an overview using an estimated model: Production of 200 barrels a day per well, at a 3 percent tax rate, would generate just under $200,000 per year per well.
Denzler’s group is among those that helped draft Bradley’s proposal.
Gov. Pat Quinn, who has called the legislation a jobs bill, reiterated his support Thursday, a day after House Speaker Michael Madigan said he supports a moratorium on fracking. Quinn cited the endorsement from some environmental groups that helped craft the legislation.
If you think that Madigan’s moratorium announcement moved the industry to accept the tax rates, you’d be right.