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Committee taking 45 more days to review fracking rules

Julie Wernau | Chicago Tribune

The Illinois legislature’s Joint Committee on Administrative Rules will take an additional 45 days to review rules that would govern horizontal hydraulic fracturing in the state, saying they would like time to review the complicated regulations.

The 12-member committee met Tuesday in Chicago to review the rules — one of 52 items on its agenda — which attempt to incorporate more than 30,000 comments the Illinois Department of Natural Resources received about its first draft from all sides of the issue into a final set of regulations.

The rules, submitted to the committee last month, are the requirement of a law passed more than a year ago to regulate the industry. The state department’s rules and regulations must be approved by the committee before fracking companies can apply for permits.

While the rules are on its agenda, the committee has until Nov. 15 to deal with them. If the committee does nothing, the rules automatically take effect. The committee can approve the rules, suggest changes or reject them. If it rejects them, the rule-making process starts anew.

While the Department of Natural Resources has taken nearly a year to draft the rules, trotting them out at multiple public hearings and addressing more comments than it has received on any rules it has drafted combined, the latest draft is not without controversy.

Related: Chicago wants tighter rules on crude oil trains

Representatives of the oil and gas industry expressed outrage last week about the latest draft of rules, saying it’s doubtful “anyone will even bother” to apply for a drilling permit if the regulations move forward.

Meanwhile, environmental groups responded by saying “cry me a polluted river” in response to an industry news conference that called the new rules an attempt to rewrite the law that started the process in the first place.

“Any industry that cannot manage to operate under a ground level set of public protections and transparency requirements has no business operating at all,” Ann Alexander, senior attorney for the Natural Resources Defense Council, said in response to industry complaints.

The environmental groups take issue with some provisions in the draft too, Alexander said, but for the most part were pleased to see that the Department of Natural Resources “fixed some of the grossest deficiencies in the proposed fracking rules.”

She said industry complaints are invalid as “the very purpose of administrative regulations is to be more specific than the statute.”

 

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