Responding to Illinois’ tough new hydraulic fracturing (fracking) legislation, and with the potential for a surge of activity in relatively untapped shale natural gas deposits in Illinois, two colleges say they are planning an array of training opportunities for the emerging oil and natural gas industry.

Officials from Southeastern Illinois College (SIC) and Rend Lake College (RLC) said that as the industry takes root, workers will need custom training and credentials including certificate and degree programs. Both colleges will provide Safeland training, a custom safety program, as well as other special training needed by the industry.

SIC has submitted a custom training certificate program to the state for approval, and RLC plans on creating an associate degree program in oil and natural gas. Related educational needs for associated jobs in the industry include truck driving, welding and diesel mechanics, among other programs each college offers individually.

“Natural gas exports are a huge opportunity for our local economy,” said RLC President Terry Wilkerson. “Our job as a training provider is to meet that opportunity with programming that will provide a skilled workforce and put people to work…By partnering, we can provide the training and continuing education needed to make this a safe and reliable economic boost to the region.”

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.

The state’s Hydraulic Fracturing Regulation Act, which was signed into law by Gov. Pat Quinn on Monday, requires exploration and production companies to disclose the chemicals used in fracking and to test nearby groundwater before and after the drilling operations (see Shale Daily, June 4). Among its provisions, the law requires operators to test water before, during and after drilling, and it holds them liable for any contamination found after the drilling begins. It also carries chemical disclosure requirements that are typical of fracking legislation in other states.

The law, which had the support of the Illinois Oil and Gas Association, authorizes the state Department of Natural Resources to adopt rules “as may be necessary” to fulfill the bill’s intent, and it would create a statewide “Mines and Minerals Regulatory Fund.”

“This new law will unlock the potential for thousands of jobs in Southern Illinois and ensure that our environment is protected,” Quinn said Monday. “As I said in my budget address, hydraulic fracturing is coming to Illinois with the strongest environmental regulations in the nation. It’s about jobs and it’s about ensuring that our natural resources are protected for future generations.”