SPRINGFIELD - Since Illinois' Office of Oil and Gas Resource Management continues to drag its feet in proposing regulations for Illinois' hydraulic fracturing industry, frustrated Illinois lawmakers are preparing to go around them.
The Illinois Manufacturers Association said Friday that they support the part of the newly-proposed General Assembly action that sets the needed regulations, but they oppose the bill's two-year fracking moratorium in Illinois.
"Nearly one year after the General Assembly passed the Hydraulic Fracturing Act, Governor Pat Quinn and the Illinois Department of Natural Resources have failed to implement rules that will allow fracturing to occur in Illinois, preventing the creation of thousands of news jobs and millions of dollars in tax revenue," an IMA statement says.
"For a state with an extremely high unemployment rate, this is an epic failure of leadership after a broad-based coalition of stakeholders including industry, environmentalists, agriculture, attorney general and the governor reached an historic agreement last year. Illinois is wasting a golden economic development opportunity."
Last spring, the Illinois General Assembly passed and in June 2013, Governor Quinn signed into law legislation approving fracking in Illinois. The bill authorized the Department of Natural Resources to set up fracking regulations, which would then demand public comment and consideration by the state's Joint Committee on Administrative Rules before the fracking could begin.
Environmentalists remain opposed to the industry setting up in southern Illinois, while just across the Indiana border, the fracking industry is thriving and bringing to the state needed revenue.
Earlier this year, State Rep. Brandon Phelps called a meeting of Downstate lawmakers with Mitchell Cohen, head of the Office of Oil and Gas Management, who had no answers for why the regulations had not developed. Cohen offered no explanation as to why his department had not made more progress on rule-making necessary to regulate fracking in Illinois.
"We wanted to know why the rules have not been done. They were supposed to be done within a year of the governor signing the bill," Rep. Phelps said. "Every group that sat at the negotiating table agreed to this bill. It got a lot of votes, and the governor signed it, so we wanted to know why there has been no movement."
Shortly after Phelps' meeting, the Office head Mitchell Cohen was quietly moved to another department in the DNR. A PowerPoint presentation Cohen made in Chicago was found to have included several anti-fracking industry song lyrics, insinuating an anti-fracking sympathy which infuriated Downstate lawmakers.
SB 649, a Senate shell bill, was amended Friday afternoon to contain the regulations needed to commence fracking in Illinois, but also a two-year moratorium. The bill is scheduled to be heard in the House Executive Committee Monday, May 26 at 3:00 PM.
Downstate House member John Bradley will be presenting the amendment Monday, an effort that pleases the IMA - with one major reservation.
"We applaud the effort of Rep. John Bradley to help move the industry forward with his novel approach," the IMA says, "but we are adamantly opposed to any moratorium on fracturing in any area of Illinois."