“If you look at what has happened in other states, whole counties are destroyed by this process,” says Chuck Paprocki, a retired farmer from Carbondale who helped organize the “Stop the Frack Attack” rally Monday in the Loop.
Updated: September 1, 2012 6:08AM
It’s always best to have the rule book before the game begins.
But as a new method of drilling for oil and natural gas comes to Illinois, the Legislature has been unable to agree on what the regulations should be.
That puts the state at risk, both for getting a late start on a new energy boom and for unnecessary environmental damage.
The new technology, an advanced form of hydraulic fracturing, or “fracking,” is driving down the price of natural gas. The process involves injecting a mixture of water, sand and chemicals into wells at high pressure to crack rock and release oil or gas. Fracking allows previously inaccessible oil and natural gas to be extracted from shale and other rock formations.
But if not done properly, fracking carries environmental risks. The process requires a lot of water and an array of chemicals, and it can pollute both land and water supplies. It has been linked to contaminated cropland and sickened livestock.
What worries environmentalists is that there are no rules. Oil and gas drilling are exempted from federal clean air and clean water regulations, and the state has yet to put rules in place.
On Monday, environmental groups staged a “Stop the Frack Attack” rally at the James R. Thompson Center in the Loop. They called on Gov. Pat Quinn to impose a two-year moratorium on fracking while the rules are worked out.
“If you look at what has happened in other states, whole counties are destroyed by this process,” said rally organizer Chuck Paprocki, a retired farmer from Carbondale.
Kim Oelze, president of the Illinois Oil and Gas Association, said the industry opposes a moratorium but also wants rules in place. A fracking well costs $8 million to $15 million, and drillers will be reluctant to invest that if the rules might change later on, Oelze said.
Fracking is safe, she said, but “we need to keep working to address everyone’s concerns.”
The Legislature did take up the matter in the spring, when a bill passed in the Senate but died in the House. We know lawmakers are wrestling with other big issues, but fracking regulation can’t go on the back burner.