Labor groups and members of the oil and gas industry have joined together in calling for the overhaul of recently proposed rules governing fracking in the state. The pro-fracking coalition, known as Grow-IL, argues that the revised regulations, which the Illinois Department of Natural Resources (“IDNR”) released on August 29, significantly deviate from the hydraulic fracturing law the Illinois General Assembly passed last year.
Industry representatives contend the IDNR is seeking to impose more burdensome certification and drilling standards than permitted under the state law. Mark Denzler, Vice President of the Illinois Manufactures’ Association, criticized the new rules: “We were very hopeful that the rules would simply implement the law, not expand or contract a law that was very carefully negotiated over three years.”
Among the many concerns of fracking supporters are new permitting requirements, which some fear could dissuade oil and gas developers from applying to operate within the state. For instance, the state law requires all companies to conduct water testing before obtaining a drilling permit. But according to fracking proponents, the new rules empower landowners to block a permit’s issuance simply by refusing to allow a driller to conduct such testing on their property.
Grow-IL has requested that Illinois’s Joint Committee on Administrative Rules—the legislative body charged with reviewing administrative rules promulgated by state agencies—revise the IDNR’s regulations. The group also submitted comments, highlighting more than sixty-five issues with the rules as drafted. The committee has until November 15 to approve or reject the fracking standards.
Members of the coalition believe instituting rules that encourage new fracking operations could spur job growth in the state and generate much needed tax revenue. According to Michael Carrigan, President of the Illinois AFL-CIO, “We’re not talking about just a few jobs at stake: We are projecting up to 47,000 new jobs, and those positions will fill a massive void of opportunity in Southern Illinois.”