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November 15, 2013

IDNR: 'Fracking' at least a year off in Illinois

SPRINGFIELD, Ill. (AP) — It will be at least a year until the start of hydraulic fracturing in the state, according to Illinois’ top environmental official.

Marc Miller, director of the Illinois Department of Natural Resources, told The (Springfield) State Journal-Register that new state regulations for the practice are nearly complete. But it will take months before permits are issued because the state still needs to hold public hearings.

Miller told the newspaper no companies have registered to perform hydraulic fracturing, or “fracking,” since the state started sign-ups last month.

“I think the companies want to see how the rules are going to come out,” Miller said.

The governor signed legislation in July regulating high-volume oil and gas drilling, creating a two-step application process. The state’s law is considered among the toughest in the nation.

The new law establishes rules that oil and gas companies must follow during hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, which uses high-pressure mixtures of water, sand or gravel and chemicals to crack underground rock formations and release oil and natural gas. Companies will be required to disclose chemicals and to test water before and after drilling as well as hold the companies liable for contamination.

Opponents of the legislation — who unsuccessfully pushed for a two-year moratorium to allow more time to study the environmental and health impact of fracking — worry it will pollute and deplete water resources.

Illinois is requiring hydraulic fracturing operators to submit chemical disclosures to the state both before and after fracking, as well as require the companies to conduct water testing before the fracking process and then again a number of times after it’s completed.

Miller says he expects about 700 permit applications would ultimately submitted each year in Illinois.

“We don’t have an indication of how big it might be until it starts to happen,” said Miller.

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