Fracking uses a high-pressure mixture of water, sand and chemicals to crack and hold open thick rock formations, releasing trapped oil and gas. Combined with horizontal drilling, it allows access to formerly out-of-reach deposits. Industry is eyeing the New Albany Shale formation in southern Illinois, where they hope that significant oil deposits lie 5,000 feet or more below the surface.
The industry insists the method is safe and would create thousands of jobs. Opponents say it causes water and air pollution and permanently depletes freshwater resources.
Until now, Illinois had no regulations governing fracking. The new rules will include requirements that oil and gas companies test water before, during and after drilling, and hold them liable if contamination is found after drilling begins.
Alexander said the DNR has moved too quickly to write rules for something as important as fracking, and said it will “take a huge amount of work” to fix them. She’s also concerned that public feedback is being gathered during the holiday season, when many people might not be paying attention.
“This whole process is a speeding train,” she said.
DNR spokesman Chris McCloud said the agency “took as much time as it possibly could, as much time that was needed,” and can change the rules if needed before they’re finalized.
The agency will hold two public hearings: Nov. 26 in in Chicago and Dec. 3 in the southern Illinois town of Ina, in Jefferson County. People may also submit written comments.