After a Year of Haggling, Lawmakers Greenlight New Drilling Rules
On Nov. 6, lawmakers in Illinois signed off on rules to regulate high-volume oil and gas drilling and completions, paving the way for what local industry hopes will result in unleashing the energy boom in southern Illinois.
An Illinois “fracing law” was passed by the state legislature in 2013 and was heralded as a compromise between environmental and industry groups. “But co-operation broke down when a first draft of rules was criticized by environmentalists and a second draft was faulted by industry,” the AP reported yesterday.
“We are sure many changes benefiting industry have been made behind closed doors without scientific review,” said Annette McMichael, spokeswoman for Southern Illinoisans Against Fracturing our Environment, the AP reported.
On Nov. 6, the rules were approved unanimously by the legislature following the long process during which 30,000 public comments were addressed.
“Illinois Department of Natural Resources Director Marc Miller said key changes to the rules requested by environmentalists remain in place. They include clarification that wastewater would not be stored in open pits for more than a week at a time, which environmentalists had said would lead to contamination. Public hearings for fracking permits must not be held further than 30 miles from where a well site would be located. In addition, Miller said, fines were increased for violations of the rules,” the AP reported.
The oil producing area of Illinois is part of the Illinois Basin that lies beneath southern Illinois, western Kentucky and western Indiana. There is oil production in 40 of the 102 counties in Illinois, mostly in the southern part of the state. There are approximately 32,100 oil and gas production wells, 10,500 Class II injection wells and 1,750 gas storage wells in Illinois. These wells are controlled by 1,500 operators.
The state department of natural resources reports that approximately 800 drilling permits for oil, gas and injection wells are issued each year in Illinois, but that number is expected to increase in light of yesterday’s approvals. The Illinois DNR said the final rules will be published by the Secretary of State on or before Nov. 15.