Illinois is trying to set a national environmental standards framework for hydraulic fracking. Governor Pat Quinn signed the Hydraulic Fracturing Regulatory Act into law yesterday. The new law enacts the nation’s strongest environmental protections for hydraulic fracturing.Passage of this legislation was one of Governor Quinn’s top priorities this year, and the Quinn Administration helped negotiate and draft the legislation.
Under the new law, Illinois will become the first state in the nation in which hydraulic fracturing operators will be required to submit pre- and post-fracturing chemical disclosures to the state. Additionally, Illinois will become the only state in the nation to require pre- and post-fracturing water testing. Operators will be required to provide a baseline water test prior to the act of hydraulic fracturing and then tests six months, 18 months and 30 months after operations have concluded. Illinois will also require the storage of fluid in above-ground closed tanks, rather than traditional pits.
Fracking is one of the most controversial processes underway to extract fuel out of the ground. Some states are embracing the practice, while other states are seeing protests and considering multi-year bans until more information is known about the environmental impact. Officials in Boulder, Colorado are currently working on language to vote on a three-year ban of any new fracking permits. A bill recently passed the California State Senate as well that would regulate the industry in that state.
The Illinois law requires the opportunity for public comment on proposed fracking, including a mandatory 30-day public comment period, a public hearing opportunity and a 15-day follow-up public comment period. The state will consider all submitted written comments and testimony from public hearings when making its decision to approve or deny the permit application. The rules are some of the tightest in the country, but the Governor says that they also provide the fracking industry itself with the certainty it needs to begin work in the state and create jobs.
The legislation was supported by numerous environmental advocacy groups, including the Sierra Club Illinois, Environmental Law and Policy Center, Natural Resources Defense Council and Illinois Environmental Council. The law went into effect upon signature.