CHICAGO – Gov. Pat Quinn's administration has affirmed its support for the state Department of Natural Resources' efforts to craft rules governing hydraulic fracturing, saying the process ensures that the public, advocates and experts all have the chance to weigh in.
Saturday's statement from the governor's office came a day after Democratic state Rep. John Bradley proposed legislation to jump-start fracking through a measure that would skip that rule-making process.
The state Legislature authorized the oil and gas drilling method last May, and the DNR has spent months holding hearings and sifting through tens of thousands of comments as part of the rule-making process that Illinois law requires to be completed by November.
Oil and gas industry representatives have complained that the process has taken too long and that the state was risking prospective drillers leaving the state and going elsewhere.
Grant Klinzman, a Quinn spokesman, said the administration takes hydraulic fracturing very seriously and is "making sure it is done right," adding that the DNR has done "an unprecedented amount of work to ensure the public, advocates and experts all have a voice in the process."
A message left Sunday at Bradley's Marion office was not immediately returned. Calls by The Associated Press to the lawmaker's home went unanswered.
The Department of Natural Resources was still reviewing the legislation Friday, spokesman Chris Young said.
A message seeking comment was left Sunday with another DNR spokesman, Chris McCloud.
Environmental groups interpret Bradley's bill as stripping rule-making power away from the state agency and leaving it in the hands of the Legislature. They say that the measure would hurt the state's ability to impose critical controls on a practice with the potential to pollute water and cause other ecological damage.
"The environmental community rejects this late-session end run that eliminates the public from discussions on fracking in Illinois," according to a statement Friday by groups including the Illinois Environmental Council, Natural Resources Defense Council, Environmental Law and Policy Center and the Sierra Club. "The established rule-making process has been hijacked, eliminating the public's voice and scuttling the technical expertise that has gone into that rulemaking."
Fracking uses a high-pressure mixture of water, sand and chemicals to crack and hold open thick rock formations, releasing trapped oil and gas. Combined with horizontal drilling, it allows access to formerly out-of-reach deposits.
The state has seen limited fracking so far. Until the compromise legislation was passed last year, companies weren't required to say what method they used to extract oil and gas, and the DNR had no way of knowing whether it had begun or how extensively.
Bradley's bill would also establish a moratorium on fracking in northern Illinois counties, though there is limited drilling potential there compared with the central and southern parts of the state.
The bill is SB649.