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Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Chicago Tribune: Illinois fracking rules to become public Friday, August 29, 2014

by Julie Wernau, Tribune reporter, Chicago Tribune, August 27, 2014

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.

Once those rules are dropped, the committee has 45 days to either approve the rules, suggest changes, or reject them outright or the rules automatically become law.

IDNR held five lengthy public hearings on the proposed rules, which have about 100 different sections and are hundreds of pages long.

Meanwhile, the oil and gas industry expects to have to continue its fight against anti-fracking groups, especially after their intended drilling locations become public.

Opponents have vowed to use every legal avenue available to stop fracking. The law allows citizens to appeal permits and to ask for public hearings, which makes some drillers anxious.

Companies wishing to engage in horizontal hydraulic fracturing must register 30 days before filing an application to drill. Their intentions will be posted online.

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