Study: Many unknowns but gas could mean Ill. jobs
Recent advances in hydraulic fracturing and other techniques have spurred interest in Illinois' portion of the New Albany Shale, about 5,000 feet beneath far southwestern Illinois. Federal government estimates put the shale's potential production at levels far below those in boom areas such as the Marcellus Shale in Pennsylvania.
But the interest in the industry has spurred talk from both lawmakers and critics about the drilling techniques, which environmental groups say can pollute water supplies.
The Sierra Club, which has pushed for strong regulation in Illinois, did not immediately respond to a request for comment Thursday. Others, like the grassroots group Southern Illinoisans Against Fracturing our Environment, want fracking banned until its environmental consequences are sorted out. That group also didn't immediately respond to a call for comment.
The state Senate passed SB 3280 earlier this year but the House never acted. The bill is being amended, said McKay, who is part of a group that's looking at the legislation. The bill's sponsor, state Sen. Mike Frerichs, a Democrat from Gifford in eastern Illinois, did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Wolf said early versions of the legislation included provisions the industry couldn't live with, such as not drilling a thousand feet or more away from surface water.
Neither Wolf nor McKay knew how quickly the legislation could move next year in Springfield.
"The 'white smoke' from Springfield could be days, weeks or months ahead," Wolf said. "I hope it's one of the first two options."
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