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Fracking bill clears with industry, environmental support

SPRINGFIELD — A proposal updating Illinois’ oil and gas law to regulate the latest evolution in drilling technology passed the Senate Environment Committee on Thursday with rare support from industry and environmental groups.

As energy companies secure leases to extract oil and gas from the New Albany shale in southern Illinois, some lawmakers and environmental groups have been trying to pass legislation regulating horizontal hydraulic fracturing, which uses water, sand and industrial fluids to crack open fissures in rocks to release oil or gas.

Sponsored by state Sen. Michael Frerichs, D-Gifford, Senate Bill 3280 would require companies to disclose the chemical composition of the fracturing fluids and would require companies to test the integrity of the cement and steel well casings meant to protect groundwater during the drilling process.

“It’s not very often that you see the industry groups and the environmental community come to together and agree on an issue,” said Dan Eichholz, associate director of the Illinois Petroleum Council, a trade group, which supports the proposal, along with the Illinois Oil and Gas Association, Illinois Chamber of Commerce and Illinois Manufacturing Association.

Jack Darin, director of the Illinois Sierra Club, an environmental group, said the bill offers good solutions to the risks associated with hydraulic fracturing, although he said lawmakers should consider other issues, such as waste water and air emissions.

“This bill is going to be part of a broader conversation about hydraulic fracturing,” Darin said.

So far, only a few experimental wells have been drilled in the New Albany shale, a 400-million-year-old oil- and gas-rich rock layer that sits about 4,500 feet underground in Illinois.

ANTHONY BRINO writes for Illinois Statehouse News in Springfield, Ill.

via Fracking bill clears with industry, environmental support.