Permit hurdles worry Illinois fracking supporters

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Supporters of hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, say new rules drawn up by the Illinois Department of Natural Resources throw up too many hurdles for companies that want permits to begin work in Illinois.

The rules, the second draft, have gone to the 12-member Joint Committee on Administrative Rules, but industry is asking JCAR to work with the DNR to revise them. Industry representatives argue the rules add new restrictions that were not envisioned in legislation signed by Gov. Pat Quinn that was supported by both industry and environmental groups.

The rules, which implement the legislation, are “leaps and bounds over what was negotiated over the past two years,” Tom Wolf, executive director of the Illinois Chamber of Commerce Energy Council, said Wednesday in a conference call with journalists and representatives of the pro-fracking coalition GROW-IL.

In all, industry has 67 “areas of concern,” but at the top of the list are new criteria for obtaining permits. Fracking supporters say they are so restrictive they will discourage companies from applying. If changes aren’t made, the industry representatives might ask members of JCAR vote against the rules, which would require the rulemaking process to start over.

Illinois has promising areas for fracking Downstate, but it’s not known how productive those areas could turn out to be.

Opponents worry that fracking will use up and pollute groundwater and cause health problems. A study released Wednesday found people in southwestern Pennsylvania living near natural gas wells were more likely to report respiratory and skin problems.

The deadline for approving the rules is Nov. 15.

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