There has been another setback for hydraulic fracturing in Illinois. The Illinois legislature's Joint Committee on Administrative Rules ("Joint Committee") met yesterday and decided to utilize a 45-day extension as it weighs proposed regulations that would govern hydraulic fracturing in Illinois.
The 12-member Joint Committee received the revised rules related to the year-old Hydraulic Fracturing Regulatory Act from the Department of Natural Resources ("DNR") on August 29 after the DNR reworded some rules based on more than 30,000 comments it had received on its original draft. The Joint Committee originally had 45 days, until mid-October, to consider the proposed regulations, but the Joint Committee exercised a 45 day extension and will spend more time reviewing and potentially rewriting the rules. The Joint Committee also has asked the DNR to ensure the rules comply with the intent of the law passed a year ago. Some lawmakers on the Joint Committee say that the rules go too far and don't represent the original intent of the law.
Neither industry nor environmental groups are satisfied with the state's revised rules and both have requested that various changes be made. An industry coalition has outlined more than 65 areas of concern, including rules that it believes violate the legislative compromise reached over a year ago. Other representatives of the oil and gas industry expressed outrage about the latest draft, saying it's doubtful "anyone will even bother" to apply for drilling permits in Illinois if the regulations move forward. Environmental groups are also seeking changes, including a provision that caps the total amount that companies can be fined.
The DNR's rules and regulations must be approved by the Joint Committee before hydraulic fracturing companies can apply for permits. The Joint Committee will meet again in about a month and changes to the rules could be presented and voted on then. If not, there is one more Joint Committee meeting left in early November, ahead of a looming deadline. The rules have to be in place by November 15 or the process may start over again.