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Public Comment Period on Illinois Frack Rules Expires

A 50-day public comment period on rules that would implement Illinois' Hydraulic Fracturing Regulatory Act (HFRA) was set to expire Friday, but some environmental groups opposed to fracking are asking the state for an extension.

The Illinois Department of Natural Resources (IDNR) held five public hearings on the proposal, in November and December. The HFRA would add a series of laws to the Illinois Administrative Code. Specifically, Part 245 would govern fracking and be added under Title 62, which covers the mining industry.

New laws would be enacted to cover registration and permitting procedures; permit decisions; well site preparation; well construction; water quality; chemical disclosure and trade secrets; high-volume hydraulic fracturing (HVHF) preparations and operations; HVHF production; plugging and restoration; enforcement, and medium-volume hydraulic fracturing (MVHF) operations.

Illinois would classify a horizontal well that uses more than 80,000 gallons in any single stage of stimulation, or in which the total amount of all stages of stimulation was more than 300,000 gallons, to be HVHF. A horizontal well where all stages used more than 80,000 gallons, but used less than 300,001 gallons in the pressurized application of fracking fluid, would be considered MVHF. For both classifications, the wells must have been drilled since June 17, 2013.

Operators would be licensed through the IDNR's Office of Oil and Gas Resource Management. Also, exploration and production (E&P) companies would be required to disclose the chemicals used in fracking and to test nearby groundwater before and after the drilling operations.

In a Facebook post Friday, an anti-fracking group called "Fight Fracking in Southern Illinois, Protect the Shawnee," asserted that the IDNR had received more than 20,000 public comments on the HFRA from it and similar environmental groups opposed to the practice, and claimed their submissions were a record.

It was unclear how many public comments had been received by the agency, or if the 50-day public comment period would be extended (see Shale Daily, Nov. 15, 2013). An IDNR spokesman could not be reached for comment Friday.

Both houses of the Illinois General Assembly passed SB 1715, which established the HFRA, on May 31, 2013. Gov. Pat Quinn signed the bill on June 17.

Shale natural gas deposits in southern Illinois carry the potential to create $9.5 billion in new investment and 45,000 jobs, according to the Illinois Chamber of Commerce (see Shale Daily, Dec. 17, 2012). The New Albany Shale gas formation underlies a substantial portion of southern Illinois.

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