SPRINGFIELD - In the new legislative session, Illinoisans can expect representatives of the oil and gas industry and environmental activists to work to impose regulations on the process of hydraulic fracturing. While the industry's progress has led to a boom in oil and natural gas production, opponents of shale development advocate a moratorium on hydraulic fracturing. Why? Because they believe the process, also known as “fracking,” threatens public health through potential contamination of drinking water supplies.
But as a shale gas basin, Illinois has been home to fracking for over 60 years with few complaints.
According to data collected from the Interstate Oil & Gas Compact Commission, a government agency, between 30,000 and 50,000 wells have been “fracked” in Illinois since the 1950s and no harm to groundwater has ever been recorded. Several other state and federal regulators have confirmed that the fracking process has never contaminated anyone’s water.
A report from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology explains why this is so: “[T]here is substantial vertical separation between the freshwater aquifers and the fracture zones in the major shale plays. The shallow layers are protected from injected fluid by a number of layers of casing and cement—and as a practical matter fracturing operations cannot proceed if these layers of protection are not fully functional.”
A statewide moratorium on fracking would impose an unnecessary burden on the development of a rich natural resource—and cost the state plenty. Dr. David Loomis, professor of economics at Illinois State University and director of the Center for Renewable Energy, found allowing fracking to take place in the state would mean “a minimum of 1,000 jobs would be created or supported each year with the potential of 47,000 jobs annually if the highest scenario is realized.” With 8.8 percent unemployment and a desperate need for revenue, Illinois cannot afford to bypass this breakthrough technology, especially given fracking’s remarkably safe track record.
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