Mt. Vernon Register-News

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March 8, 2013

Illinois deal on fracking could be national model

(Continued)

But Michigan's largest environmental coalition might be willing to take a cue from Illinois if lawmakers decide that fracking should be part of Michigan's energy mix.

"We would love to see that kind of bipartisan cooperation," said Hugh McDiarmid, spokesman for the Michigan Environmental Council. The Illinois bill "has a lot of good ideas and a lot of things ... that mirror what we're trying to achieve in Michigan" because stopping or banning fracking would be unrealistic.

That's exactly what motivated some Illinois environmental groups to sit down with industry, lawmakers, regulators and the attorney general's office.

In Illinois, it came down to "do we accept the invitation to go to the table or walk away and allow industry to write the rules?" said Allen Grosboll, co-legislative director at the Chicago-based Environmental Law and Policy Center. "For us to say we were not going to participate and drive the hardest deal we could to protect environment would have been totally irresponsible."

The Natural Resources Defense Council supported a failed attempt at a fracking moratorium last year. So with lawmakers clearly ready to allow fracking in southern Illinois, the NRDC wanted to ensure there were significant safeguards, including making drillers liable for water pollution, requiring them to disclose the chemicals used and enabling residents to sue for damages.

"One of the positive things here has been the table to which a wide range of interests have come ... to address the risks in an adult way," said Henry Henderson, director of the NRDC's Midwest office. "We have gotten over the frustrating chasm of 'Are you for the environment or for the economy?' That is an empty staring contest."

Negotiations took place over four or five months, primarily at the Statehouse in meetings led by state Rep. John Bradley, a Democrat who lives in the area where fracking would occur, participants said.

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