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Illinois Panel Approves Fracking Rules

Two days after voters in Illinois elected a new governor, a panel of state lawmakers has unanimously approved a series of regulations governing hydraulic fracturing (fracking) in the state.

According to reports, the 12-member Joint Committee on Administrative Rules (JCAR) met Thursday in Chicago and unanimously approved the rules with little discussion. It appeared that the panel issued a certificate of no objection (CNO) for the proposed rules.

Last August, the Illinois Department of Natural Resources (DNR) filed 150 pages of revised rules to the state's Hydraulic Fracturing Regulatory Act (HFRA) and 13 pages of amendments to the Illinois Oil and Gas Act (see Shale Daily, Sept. 2). The actual rules approved by JCAR on Thursday remain secret, but they are expected to be published in an upcoming issue of the Illinois Register.

State law stipulates that the DNR can proceed with adopting the rules after filing them with the secretary of state and publication in the Illinois Register. If an objection is filed to the CNO, the DNR would have 90 days to respond in writing, but it could still move to adopt the rules afterward.

JCAR met last month to vote on the proposed changes but ultimately decided to postpone the vote until Thursday, after the election (see Shale Daily, Oct. 16).

Both areas of regulation that DNR has proposed changing are subsets to Title 62, which covers mining, of the Illinois Administrative Code.

Supporters of oil and natural gas development in Illinois praised JCAR’s decision.

“We are pleased that JCAR is implementing -- not expanding or narrowing -- this long-overdue law as enacted by the General Assembly with strong bipartisan support,” said Mark Denzler, COO of the Illinois Manufacturers’ Association and co-chairman of Growing Resources and Opportunity for the Workforce in Illinois (GROW-IL). “Today's unanimous vote will allow Illinois to finally begin issuing permits and developing an innovative energy sector. This exciting development will create much-needed jobs and significant revenue for our state economy.”

Brad Richards, executive vice president of the Illinois Oil and Gas Association, concurred.

“We applaud JCAR for producing carefully crafted rules that resemble the legislation that was signed into law,” Richards said. “We believe the extra time it took for the negotiation process will maintain the practical sensibilities that will allow hydraulic fracturing to create jobs and stimulate the Illinois economy.”

Last year state lawmakers passed, and Gov. Pat Quinn subsequently signed, the HFRA, which potentially opened the state to fracking but required E&Ps to disclose their fracking chemicals and to test nearby groundwater before and after they drilled (see Shale Daily, June 4, 2013). DNR then published an initial version of proposed rules on fracking and scheduled a series of public hearings (see Shale Daily, Nov. 15, 2013).

Illinois voters on Tuesday elected Bruce Rauner, a Republican, as the state's new governor.

In 2012, the Illinois Chamber of Commerce reported that shale formations in the southern part of the state could potentially create $9.5 billion of investment and 45,000 jobs (see Shale Daily, Dec. 17, 2012). The New Albany Shale formation underlies a substantial portion of southern Illinois.

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