The Illinois Department of Natural Resources (DNR) has published proposed rules on hydraulic fracturing as required by the state’s recently adopted Hydraulic Fracturing Regulation Act and scheduled a pair of public hearings over the next three weeks. Public comments on the proposed rules will be accepted until Jan. 3, DNR said.

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 earlier this year, 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.”

Environmental groups, on the other hand, have been critical of the law and DNR’s draft rules.

“The speeding train that is fracking in Illinois, which we tried for years to put the brakes on with a moratorium [see Shale Daily, Feb. 25], is now hurtling through the rulemaking process, with the Department (at the behest of industry, it appears) pulling out all the stops to get the rules in place as soon as humanly possible,” Natural Resources Defense Council senior attorney Ann Alexander said in her blog Friday. ” The result is not, shall we say, a paragon of thoughtful drafting.”