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Illinois lawmakers drop fracking bill, urge action

Published: Wednesday, May 28, 2014 11:44 p.m. CDT • Updated: Wednesday, May 28, 2014 11:47 p.m. CDT

SPRINGFIELD – Lawmakers supporting hydraulic fracturing Wednesday abandoned proposed legislation to speed use of the practice in Illinois, and said they would instead urge a state agency to move more quickly writing rules to regulate it.

The Legislature last May authorized the process commonly known as fracking, which uses a high-pressure mixture of water, sand and chemicals to crack and hold open thick rock formations, releasing trapped oil and gas. But the Department of Natural Resources has spent months holding hearings and gathering more than 30,000 comments on the best way to regulate the drilling method. The agency has until November to publish rules for fracking.

Lawmakers from southern Illinois, which has a huge shale deposit that could be explored using the technology, accused the agency of dragging its feet. They said the delay is hurting the economy of poorer Illinois counties, and the lawmakers called on Gov. Pat Quinn to intervene. Quinn oversees the Department of Natural Resources.

“We’re sitting there waiting. It’s time we put some people back to work down in our area,” state Rep. John Cavaletto of Salem said.

The Department of Natural Resources did not immediately respond to requests for comment from The Associated Press Wednesday

Frustrated with the slow movement on rules for fracking, Marion Democratic Rep. John Bradley’s last week proposed legislation to skip the state rulemaking process.

Environmental groups said the proposal would strip power to regulate fracking from the state agency, leaving Illinois vulnerable to water pollution and ecological damage.

The bill also would have established a moratorium on fracking in northern Illinois counties, which was a problem for some lawmakers from northern areas of the state, according to Rep. David Reis, Republican of Willow Hill.

The lawmakers abandoned the effort to pass a new law in the waning days of state legislative session. But in a statement Wednesday, Bradley called for an “immediate resolution” to the delays in implementing the law passed last year.

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