Illinois Adopts Nation’s Strictest Fracking Regulations

Old State Capitol building in Springfield, Illinois (Credit: Shutterstock)

On Monday, Governor Pat Quinn signed legislation to regulate fracking in the state of Illinois. Legislation overwhelmingly passed both the Illinois Senate (52-3) and the House (108-9) last month. The law is now seen as the nation’s strictest for oil and gas drilling.

The Chicago Tribune writes that the legislation will force oil and gas companies to register with the Department of Natural Resources. In the permitting process they must detail:

  • how the well will be drilled
  • the amount of fluid used and at what pressure
  • how it will withdraw water, contain waste, and disclose the chemicals used

Additionally, a 30-day public comment period begins seven days after the Department of Natural Resources receives a permit application; and people who suspect fracking has polluted their water supply can request an investigation forcing the Department of Natural Resources to investigate within 30 days and reach a determination within 180 days.

While other states like Arkansas, Colorado, Pennsylvania, Texas, and Wyoming, have rules or laws requiring companies to disclose chemicals used during the drilling process, Illinois is the first state to require fracking companies to disclose the specific chemicals used both before and after fracking occurs. Illinois will also be the first to mandate companies conduct water testing throughout the entire fracking process.

Hydraulic fracturing typically involves injecting a high pressure combination of water, sand, and a mix of previously undisclosed chemicals into fissures in underlying bedrock to allow natural gas to escape. The chemicals in this water-intensive process have come into question because of their potential to pollute groundwater. Currently, the most efficient way for gas companies to dispose of the chemical-laden water is to store it in underground wells where it may reach water sources in the future.

With fracking operations already established in the state, many people feel that this rule offers strong protection and should be seen as a model for other states. At first, oil and gas companies claimed that the mix of chemicals involved in fracking was a trade secret and therefore needed to be kept from the public. Parts of the Illinois law will limit the ability of fracking companies to claim that the chemicals used in their process are proprietary information.

This regulation could mark the beginning of a new wave of fracking legislation. Other states are working on similar rules.

The Nebraska Oil and Gas Conservation Commission is drafting a rule that would require companies to register the chemicals they use through

California’s SB 4 has passed the Senate and moved to the assembly where, if passed, it will require companies in the state to disclose chemical names and concentrations in an attempt to bring transparency to the process.

As for the Obama administration, the Bureau of Land Management’s draft rules released in May fail to protect people from harm and instead protect the oil and gas industry from having to follow strong environmental standards. More disheartening is that BLM adopted the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) model bill written by ExxonMobil.

Illinois’ new law comes only after three months of the end of the state’s 2012 drought. The drought in Illinois last summer cut corn production to the lowest levels since 2008 and soybeans to the lowest level since 2003. Springfield residents were under mandatory water-use restrictions from July 31, 2012 until March 7, 2013.

Droughts in the Midwest will become more frequent and will cause more limitations on water usage as a result of climate change. Every fracking job requires 2 million to 4 million gallons of water, according to the Groundwater Protection Council. The EPA has also estimated that the 35,000 oil and gas wells used for fracking consume between 70 billion and 140 billion gallons of water each year.

So while Illinois has passed what can be considered the strictest set of regulations for fracking in the nation, it has risked the state’s future access to water. Furthermore, it has likely increased the amount of pollution the state will release into the air and water. As the Illinois chapter of the Sierra Club notes:

Fracking poses grave dangers to our communities, land, air, and water; and contributes to the continued destabilization of our climate. States like Illinois are largely on their own in facing these threats since Congress, in enacting one of the worst recommendations of the Bush-Cheney secret energy task force, exempted fracking from our most basic national environmental laws… These new regulatory measures are essential to provide a measure of protection for the environment and public health. However, new regulations will not make fracking safe, and our support for additional protections does not mean we have confidence that fracking can be done safely or without pollution.

Matt Kasper is the Special Assistant for Energy policy and Patrick Maloney is an intern for Energy policy at the Center for American Progress.

32 Responses to Illinois Adopts Nation’s Strictest Fracking Regulations

  1. Glen Etzkorn says:

    a weak regulation in a state where the EPA does its best at being obnoxious yard police. But in the this get rich scam our EPA will duck for cover wondering out loud gee their short staff as the culprits stuff their campaign pockets. This was done in secret to avoid looking at the science involved and to dream of getting out of its broken pension budget woes. Every well driven in the other states which are many never dealt with radioactive waste costs est at $57,000 per well. Its a lot more expensive to fetch the waste off the roadways as residual additives and de-icing salts or from the fish on your dinner plate when tossed in rivers and ponds. I don’t look for the state of Illinois to honestly pursue minimizing damage when it should be simply stopped before it happens. The science is out there that these corporations need their corporate charters pulled and their shareholders tossed in prison.

  2. Michael Berndtson says:

    Anytime anything is written positively about legislation coming out of Illinois, I immediately go to the by Rich Miller:

    “The anti-frackers are furious at Gov. Pat Quinn for signing the fracking regulatory and taxation bill yesterday. From a press release…

    “It is obvious from his signing this bill that the Governor did not do his due diligence on this issue,” said Dr. Lora Chamberlain, spokesperson for the coalition, adding, “Any responsible person after looking at the evidence for serious harm caused by fracking across the nation would have wanted to investigate further to make sure that the regulations, written primarily by the industry, in SB1715, were sufficient to protect Illinois. But Gov. Quinn is acting like a desperate man and his actions will prove to be penny wise and dollar ridiculous. We will see how this plays out here in IL, but it is our prediction that the state will end up paying dearly to clean up the environmental mess from fracking and the resultant health problems. Polluting our precious fresh water permanently for oil will also turn out to be very unwise.”

    OK, first of all the regulations were not “written primarily by the industry.” The negotiations were, in reality, based on the environmentalists’ legislative template. The fracking industry cooperated because Speaker Madigan threatened them with a moratorium.

    Secondly, the Sierra Club, National Resources Defense Counsel and the Illinois Environmental Council all backed the bill. Those groups are made up of “responsible persons.””

    So Miller is hoping that our national environmental NGOs are “responsible.” Responsible as in good natured or responsible as in liable – like the residents of Southern Illinois can sue their butts off – responsible?

    Tom Wilber from his “Shale Gas Review” blog has a nice take on the matter:

    Since when did the Center for American Progress become an O&G shill? That’s right I almost forgot, Obama is pro-fracking and so is most of the center-right blue dog democrats: Emmanuel, Clinton (his/hers), Quinn, etc.

  3. Will says:

    It’s disappointing to see ThinkProgress push a one-sided cheerleading post about this bill that will launch the Illinois fracking rush. After loud objections from Illinois environmentalists, even those groups who negotiated this fracking bill are backing off.
    Despite what this blog says,spokespersons for groups who supported the bill are now saying it’s not strong enough and should not be a model for other states, as quoted in Mother Jones yesterday. So, which is it?

    ThinkProgress should take this post down to replace it with something that paints a more complete and realistic picture.

  4. BobbyL says:

    Let’s hope New York state serves as a model for the nation and bans high volume fracking altogether and not to go down the path to pollution that Illinois has unfortunately taken. Governor Andrew Cuomo may make the decision soon. It looks like the NYS Senate will not go along with the Assembly and pass a moratorium on high volume fracking, and will apparently leave the decision up to the governor.

  5. BobbyL says:

    With regard to the reference to the Sierra Club that must refer to be the Illinois chapter of the Sierra not the national organization. Each chapter is allowed to set its own policy on state fracking legislation. For example, in the New York state the Sierra Club chapter is fighting to ban fracking and opposes all efforts to merely regulate it as was done in Illinois.

  6. Michael Berndtson says:

    Thanks for the explanation. So state groups of environmental NGOs are like franchisees? Branding comes from headquarters and groups are responsible for local issues? Sales and marketing? Environmental advocacy? What?

    Here’s my problem with the process that just went down. Both houses voted by a landslide to approve fracking. The governor couldn’t wait to sign it. Basically, O&G and politicians used environmental NGOs as cover and for a “good environmental steward seal of approval.” Who got played? Us residents or the NGOs? My guess is that EDF was heavily in the mix. EDF is also very much supportive of fracking. Then what is EDF et al. A maker of policy? Can one sue a NGO for pollution liability or environmental impact resulting from legislation they pushed?

    Here’s how I understand the New Albany Shale petroleum geology in one word: oil. The goal of O&G is another North Dakota Bakken not Pennsylvania Marcellus. Environmental NGOs sold fracking in Illinois as a natural gas play to substitute coal fired power plants. Ironically, Illinois coal is being mined like it hasn’t in years and being shipped overseas. New Albany will produce oil that gets piped down to the Gulf for overseas sales. Natural gas liquids will be pumped up to Alberta to cut tar sands. (This is already happening with the reversal of pipe flow in one major Illinois line.) Any natural gas produced will be simply a bonus. Who knows it may just get flared if oil is produced too quickly to capture – just like Bakken.

    If environmental NGOs are putting themselves in position to negotiate environmental protection between residents and O&G, then they are extraordinary agents of the state. Not advocates? Plus they pretty much sucked at negotiating this bill, since the opposing side one by a landslide.

    So in summary, fracking Illinois’ New Albany shale is not going to cut greenhouse gas emissions – the advertised goal of most major environmental NGOs.

  7. D. R. Tucker says:

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  8. Sasparilla says:

    The legislation in Illinois should be looked at as a loss, with some restrictions that the environmentalists wanted (considering fracking was going forward no matter what).

  9. Mike Roddy says:

    New York has been a lonely inspiration, but why not ban all fracking operations, not just the big ones? The day will come when we’ll have to do so anyway.

  10. BobbyL says:

    I wouldn’t say the Sierra Club is like a franchise. The Board of Directors of the national organization are directly elected by Sierra Club members. The people who serve on the national board are also grassroots activists from the various state chapters and local groups. When it comes to national legislation then everyone is supposed to follow what the national Board of Directors decide is the policy. But for state and local legislation or issues the chapters and local groups have a lot of freedom to set the policies. The national NGOs have different types structures so you can’t always generalize from one to the others.

  11. Joan Savage says:

    There are enough votes in the state Senate to pass the moratorium, but two state senators have prevented it coming to a vote.

    Katherine Nadeau, Water & Natural Resources Director for Environmental Advocates of New York, said,“Senators Klein and Skelos need to take their foot off the fracking moratorium’s neck and allow the 61 other senators elected and paid by the people of New York to do their jobs. This is unacceptable, and a continued disgrace for a chamber that certainly needs no further embarrassment.”

  12. the EDF didn’t have to be involved because the midwest NRDC rolled over for the frackers.

    At no point were the downstate chapters of the Sierra Club involved in negotiations.

    The Illinois state Sierra Club played footsie with the NRDC, and the downstate chapters got screwed.

    This bill is a joke!

    I am astonished at the incredibly shallow and bad reporting in this article!

  13. The so-called Illinois environmentalists are nothing but shills up in Chicagoland who couldn’t care less about the people in southern Illinois whose region will be fracked.

    It is a disgrace and a scandal that the Illinois Sierra Club (upstate) and the NRDC were the ones to negotiate this horrible bill.

  14. Susan Anderson says:

    It seems the real information on this issue is in the comments here. Sad that cheerleading rather than research was the lede.

  15. Mulga Mumblebrain says:

    Well said. The simple truth is that as long as the Right totally dominate the world, and as long as capitalism persists, human destruction is certain, within decades.

  16. Mulga Mumblebrain says:

    Blue Dog Democrats are like ‘New Labour’ in the UK, and the Labor Party in Australia. Total sell-outs indistinguishable from the Reptilians. In fact, in many ways they are worse, but they are practised dissemblers.

  17. Mulga Mumblebrain says:

    Ah, Chicago- home of Rahm Emanuel, Penny Pritzker, Barack Obama et al. Oh, I forgot Al Capone- small fry!

  18. Mulga Mumblebrain says:

    That’s democracy. The Chinese are, no doubt, envious.

  19. Dennis Tomlinson says:

    There are those in Chicagoland who do care about fracking southern Illinois, don’t care much for Chicago (Democratic-style) politics, and who will be affected if the New Madrid monster lets go after being poked with the fracking stick. I see this as typical Illinois politics, sold to the public through a compliant media, and CP has done a disservice with this current cheerleading missive.

    And Al Capone was born and raised in Brooklyn. He emigrated to Chicago 30 years before the Dodgers left town, bringing his baseball bat with him. The rest we’ll just have to own.

  20. Merrelyn Emery says:

    That is nuts Mulga and I don’t give my primary vote to the ALP. And while I’m at it, it’s time you showed more respect to the Rainbow Snake, ME

  21. Merrelyn Emery says:

    Susan you are right. It is a pleasure to read a site where we have (mainly) well informed, and honest commentators. May it long remain so, ME

  22. BobbyL says:

    That is an issue that should be addressed. There are reports of illness from people living near sites where vertical fracking has taken place. Vertical fracking has gone on for decades pretty much under the radar.

  23. catman306 says:

    So the bottom line for fracking in Illinois will be:

    How much extra will these regulations cost fracking companies? Will that amount be enough to make them look to other states?

  24. Michael Berndtson says:

    Just wait for the Quinns signature to dry and regulations for the bill are written. This will take another two months.

    My guess is that frackers will get everything they want. Development and delivery costs (capital appropriation discounts through tax breaks etc.), operation and maintenance costs write offs, rigged oil and gas markets per CME Group, New York and London to keep prices up, overseas sales without restrictions, etc. Most important is environmental liability throughout the life cycle. Taxpayers of Illinois will probably inherit all that too.

  25. Michael Berndtson says:

    The authors seem to praise the legislative process (i.e. closed doors) more than the content of the legislation. What Illinois did was to completely bypass pesky environmentalists. Just like Emmanuel is doing with Chicago Public schools by bypassing those pesky parents and children. “Liberal” meritocracy only helps those who fall under someone’s narrow definition of what is meritis – everyone else is stupid and can pound sand. Maybe it’s high SAT scores or an infinite capacity to accept non-profit NGO’s business plans (cough – tax dodge – cough).

    If one is truly progressive about the environment and public well being and keeps voting these Clintonian fools in, then may god have mercy on all our souls. At least the Republicans are honest about wanting to wreck everything. Sadly just to prove that Reagan policies were right – even after failure upon failure of these policies.

  26. Will says:

    The regulations were agreed to and partially written by the industry. It will not deter them at all.

  27. Excuse me??? How much will these pitiful regulations cost the drillers?

    To begin with, Madigan cut the oil severance tax in half for the first two years of a well’s production.

    Now, we all know that fracking wells’ production falls by 60-80% in the first two years.

    Madigan and Quinn gave away the farm!

  28. Mulga Mumblebrain says:

    Most NGOs, including ‘Green’ ones, are, in my opinion, pure Astroturf, set up by the money power in the first place, or bought out somewhere along the line. Some pretend to be concerned over ‘human rights’ but only in certain states, and some claim to be ‘Green’ but insist on co-operating with business. That, as any non-insane observer could affirm, is utterly self=defeating, the only question being-are they mad, or bad? You get to fawn on billionaires, which some seem to find exciting. It goes without saying that I am speaking of the leadership, whereas most of the ordinary members are well-meaning dupes, like the Obamatons.

  29. Mulga Mumblebrain says:

    We have to agree to disagree there, ME. I’m either more cynical or more insightful, I suppose, possibly both. I’ve watched them for years-the ALP today is a sick travesty of what it was under Gough, and even that was merely decent, sensible, humane ‘social democracy’. The sell-out since has been absolute. And I am devoted to the Rainbow Snake, and have worshiped it since the first time I saw it straddling the sky. Reptilians are different creatures entirely, and no-one’s heart ‘leaps up’ when they see them (except other Reptilians, anticipating a hearty meal).

  30. Merrelyn Emery says:

    The rot set in when Hawke and Keating introduced economic rationalism but I suggest a trip to the opthalmologist if you cannot see the difference between the ALP and the economic, social and ecological fundamentalists on the opposition benches, ME

  31. Jean says:

    I think Sandra Steingraber had a lot to do with this

  32. Mulga Mumblebrain says:

    Yes, they are worse-the worst yet. But Labour is no longer as good as it should be, or as it needs to be. I’m over the ‘lesser evil’ scam, that propelled creatures like Blair, Obama, Rudd and Gillard to power. And I expect to see Governments ruling, not the rich.