Mt. Vernon Register-News

State News

March 13, 2013

Fracking opponents rally at Illinois Statehouse

(Continued)

Even so, he understands why some environmental groups, including the Natural Resources Defense Council, helped write the regulations.

"At the same time as we're idealistic, we're also pragmatic," he said. "The worst thing for Illinois would be the status quo, with no regulations or restrictions whatsoever."

The regulatory bill, introduced two weeks ago by Rep. John Bradley, D-Marion, was drafted with the help of the oil and gas industry, some environmental groups and lawmakers, and has been touted as among the toughest in the nation.

The protesters Tuesday said their efforts were raising awareness about the issue, but legislative measures introduced in the House and Senate to establish a moratorium have almost no traction compared with the widespread backing for the bill authorizing the practice.

Each moratorium bill has fewer than five sponsors, while the regulatory proposal has more than 50. Rep. Kelly Cassidy, who co-sponsored the delay but now supports the regulatory measure, said getting strong regulations like those contemplated in the House proposal "is the best next thing."

"I can appreciate that the folks who are here today, they want nothing but a moratorium," said Cassidy, D-Chicago. "But the reality is, under current Illinois law there's no regulation, they (energy companies) could be doing anything, and there aren't 60 votes to pass a moratorium."

Lawmakers also attempted to move a moratorium bill during last year's session but it was not approved.

But the lure of jobs — as many as 40,000, by one estimate — in Southern Illinois may be too much for lawmakers to pass up.

Leases already have been signed on hundreds of thousands of acres in Southern Illinois, where studies have suggested the New Albany Shale, roughly 5,000 feet below the surface, may hold significant gas and oil reserves.

The House Revenue and Finance Committee is scheduled to discuss the measures Thursday. Hunter's Senate moratorium bill will be heard Thursday in the chamber's Energy Committee.

 

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