The Joint Committee on Administrative Rules (JCAR) approved the Illinois Department of Natural Resources' revised fracking rules, to the disdain of many environmentalists.
The problem is that the rules have yet to be released publicly and will not be seen until November 15, when they are published in the Illinois Register.
"We don't know if our concerns have been taken into account because we don't know what changes were made," Jack Darin, director of the Illinois chapter of Sierra Club, told the Chicago Tribune.
Fracking is the practice of releasing Earth's natural gas by horizontally drilling with a high-pressure mixture of water, sand or gravel, and chemicals to create cracks in deep layers of shale rock.
State Sen. Don Harmon (D-Oak Park) said that no matter how many adjustments were made to the rules, gas and oil industry reps and environmentalists could not find a happy medium.
"It's an iterative process," Harmon told the newspaper. "Industry would say the changes made between the first (draft) and second (draft) were led by environmental advocates. Now, the pendulum swings back the other way. We aim to displease in equal measure."
Meanwhile, a coalition of environmental and public health groups, including the Food & Water Watch, Southern Illinoisans Against Fracturing our Environment, Frack Free IL and Shawnee Sentinels, released a joint statement in response to JCAR's decision:
Because the revised fracking rules for Illinois have been approved by JCAR, oil and gas companies can now apply for drilling permits, and the land that has been leased to these companies for years can be fracked. No regulation could make fracking safe. These rules fall short of protecting Illinoisans from the inherent dangers of fracking and are roundly rejected by grassroots groups across the state. Earlier this year, Illinoisans delivered 36,000 comments demanding that the first draft of the proposed rules be revised. After months of deliberation, industry pressure has compromised the rule making process to the detriment of Illinoisans and Southern Illinois.
The revised rules allow drilling dangerously close to hospitals & schools; they do not prevent methane venting and flaring; they allow fracking and fracking waste disposal in active seismic zones and fail to hold fracking companies accountable for potential problems, leaving the bill for said problems to Illinois tax payers. Perhaps the biggest oversight in the new rules is the failure to address the dangers of fracking in active seismic zones.
Southern Illinois is home to the New Madrid Seismic Zone (NMSZ) and the Wabash Valley Seismic Zone (WVSZ). Oil and gas industry injections of wastewater into disposal wells in other states, such as Ohio and Oklahoma, have been linked to seismic activity. As wastewater is injected underground and as fluid builds up, pressure increases, which can cause a fault to slip. The stress can result in an earthquake. Additionally, a newly released study in Seismological Research Letters found that fracking itself is the likely culprit for hundreds of small tremors in Ohio. Fracking poses unacceptable risks in Southern Illinois that could cost the state billions. Both seismic zones house multiple pipelines and nuclear facilities. Adding fracking into this already volatile mix is just poking the bear, asking for disaster.
Click through to read more about the ongoing controversies surrounding hydraulic fracturing in Illinois.