DNR: At least a year before fracking begins

From staff and wire reportsNovember 14, 2013 

— Illinois regulators plan to release publicly proposed rules for hydraulic fracturing "very soon," but it will be months before any permits are issued because the state must get the public's feedback before rules can be finalized, according to environmental officials.

Marc Miller, director of the Illinois Department of Natural Resources, said new state regulations for the practice are nearly complete. DNR spokesman Chris McCloud said in an email that the proposed regulations will be made public "very soon."

Miller said no companies have registered to perform hydraulic fracturing, or "fracking," since the state started sign-ups last month, and it will be at least a year until fracking begins.

"I think the companies want to see how the rules are going to come out," Miller said.

Drilling companies had hoped the issuing of permits would start in the spring.

"It's disappointing," said Wayne Woolsey, owner of Kansas-based Woolsey Energy, which has invested $50 million in land leases in Southern Illinois for drilling. "Why so long? The bill was written with provisions to implement."

Fracking uses high-pressure mixtures of water, sand or gravel and chemicals to crack underground rock formations and release oil and natural gas.

Regulations signed into law by the governor were hailed as among the toughest in the nation. The DNR must adopt rules to reflect the law.

The law requires companies to disclose chemicals to the DNR, test water before and after fracking and assume liability for contamination.

Opponents of the legislation -- who unsuccessfully pushed for a two-year moratorium to allow more time to study the environmental and health impact of fracking -- worry it will pollute and deplete water resources.

Miller said he expects about 700 permit applications would ultimately be submitted each year in Illinois.

"We don't have an indication of how big it might be until it starts to happen," said Miller.

Lawmakers say some estimates are that the fracking industry could create more than 70,000 jobs in Southern Illinois.

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