Illinois could soon start allowing fracking, a controversial procedure that uses water and chemicals to extract natural gas and oil from the earth.
Two downstate legislators, John Bradley (D-117) and David Reis (R-108), introduced a bill that would allow and regulate this process.
After months of negotiations – legislators, industry groups, and environmentalists reached an agreement to monitor the drilling. The hope is to offset what some studies have shown as environmental damage. Fracking uses sand and other chemicals that could contaminate water.
Drilling is currently being proposed in southern Illinois, in an area known as the New Albany shale.
A group of farmers and others there want to ban fracking because they fear harmful effects.
Annette McMichael is with Southern Illinoisans Against Fracturing Our Environment. She owns property in the area and said there are significant unanswered questions about the consequences of fracking.
“If an accident happens as a result of fracking and our water is destroyed that’s something that you can’t ever get back,” McMichael said.
Mark Denzler of the Illinois Manufacturers' Association said fracking will bring new jobs and reduce the country’s dependency on foreign oil.
He said if the bill passes, oil and gas companies could start drilling within months. To date, there have already been over $100 million in leases signed in southern Illinois, Denzle said.
“Companies have been putting lease agreements together with land owners, but they just need the regulatory framework before they are gonna commence high volume hydraulic fracturing in the state of Illinois,” he said.
Jennifer Cassel is an attorney with the Environmental Law and Policy Center. She said more needs to be done to protect water as a resource, but she is happy with some regulation in the new proposal.
“We’ve achieved great provisions on transparency," said Cassel. "[We are] getting a lot of information about what’s going on in fracking. What chemicals are getting put under the ground and how much water is being used in fracking,” she said.