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Illinois 'fracking' proposal sees rare cooperation

Published on NewsOK Modified: February 21, 2013 at 6:26 pm •  Published: February 21, 2013
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Sen. Mattie Hunter, a Chicago Democrat, introduced the moratorium bill, which is supported by some environmental groups, including the Sierra Club.

"How do you know (regulations are) going to work?" said Liz Patula, a Williamson County resident who belongs to Southern Illinoisans Against Fracturing Our Environment, a group of farmers, land owners and others. "A moratorium is about looking at scientific evidence before even saying the word 'regulation.'"

Grosboll said his group supported a moratorium that failed last fall, so it was crucial to help draft the strongest possible regulations.

"The reality is that thousands of acres of leases are being bought up, and fracking is going to come to Illinois," he said.

State Rep. John Bradley, the Marion Democrat who introduced the regulatory measure along with Willow Hill Republican David Reis, said it would protect the environment and families while creating thousands of jobs in a cash-strapped region. He said if the bill passes quickly, drilling could begin this year.

Reis called the bill "historic from an economic standpoint."

"The revenue that this is going to generate for the entire state of Illinois ... is going to be maybe one of the things we need to get out of our financial challenges that we face in this state," Reis said.

Leases already have been signed on tens 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.

Oil and gas companies are eager to begin drilling, despite what would be "unquestionably" the nation's toughest regulations, said Jim Watson, a former Illinois lawmaker who's now executive director of the Illinois Petroleum Council.

"Now it's time for the industry to invest and help us ... do the good things that can come out of this," Watson said. "I'm happy that the sides sat down and found that compromise."

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Associated Press Writer John O'Connor in Springfield contributed to this story.

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The legislation is HB2615.