OLNEY - Eighteen months ago, Governor Pat Quinn tweeted to the world his support for initiating fracking in Illinois. As of yet, fracking has not officially commenced and thousands of workers in Southern Illinois are waiting for the state to authorize industry regulations.
No evidence of progress prompted a letter from State Rep. David Reis (R-Olney) last Friday, expressing concerns about the Illinois Department of Natural Resources continuing to delay releasing information about their development of fracking regulations and the department's lack of sufficient staffing to oversee the fracking industry. Reis released the letter to Illinois Review.
Despite the public comment period closing in January, IDNR has yet to present a revised set of proposed rules. The original regulations were published for the Joint Committee of Administrative Rules to review and allow for public comment in November, 2013 - five months after SB 1517 was signed into law.
When the bill became law, companies began making investments in the southern Illinois area. But they're still waiting to start mining for gas and oil.
"Following the law’s enactment, energy companies throughout the country continued to sign land leases in southern Illinois in order to secure the necessary mineral rights to drill. These companies have invested hundreds of millions of dollars in the nineteen counties considered favorable for shale oil and gas exploration and are impatient to being drilling," Reis said in the letter.
With the Quinn Administration's continued progress delay, concerns are rising.
"Although the JCAR deadline to adopt rules is not until November 2014, many of us fear that if the process continues to drag on, drillers will leave Illinois and seek out states with less burdensome regulatory schemes," Reis wrote.
In addition, IDNR has identified 53 new positions that will be needed to adequately staff the new fracking unit, including attorneys, IT professionals, well inspectors and engineers. In July 2014, IDNR has hired just four of those needed employees.
"Governor, I am writing to urge you to intervene on behalf of southern Illinois families and the many stakeholders to bring this rulemaking process to a close," Reis wrote. "We need the thousands of jobs and millions in new revenue that fracking will bring to our great state. I further urge you to direct IDNR to provide legislators and stakeholders with an update on the status of the proposed rules and efforts being made by the Department to get this program up and running."
Governor Quinn has yet to respond to Rep. Reis' correspondence.