At last week's meeting of the Joint Committee on Administrative Rules, the director of the Illinois Department of Natural Resources testified that if state legislators do not act to codify rules governing hydraulic fracturing in Illinois, the agency would not issue any fracturing permits "absent a court order to the contrary". The rules were on last week's agenda of the Joint Committee, but the committee once again deferred any action.
The Joint Committee will meet again on November 6, and has until November 15 to adopt the rules for hydraulic fracturing or the process of formulating the regulations would start over again. The rules submitted to the Joint Committee in August are the requirement of a law passed more than a year ago to regulate the hydraulic fracturing industry. It is becoming apparent that the delays in codifying the rules governing hydraulic fracturing is vexing both sides of the issue.
As the Department of Natural Resources has not issued permits, oil and gas drillers have not started fracturing in Illinois and opportunities may be lost as a result. Brad Richards, executive vice president of the Illinois Oil and Gas Association, has verified that drillers do not intend to begin fracturing without rules in place, and that certain companies have just "moved on" as a result of delays in the rule-making process. According to Richards, "we've already lost some companies to all these delays, and undoubtedly, we've got some folks who are at the breaking point."
Richards also said landowners in southern Illinois, where fracturing would likely occur, have grown frustrated with what they perceive as delays by legislatures to get fracturing started. He stated that a lawsuit by mineral right owners is in the offing that could force the issue.
Jack Darin, director of the Illinois chapter of the Sierra Club, said he is concerned that although the current Department of Natural Resources will not issue permits without the rules in place, another later administration might see the issue differently. "We know that before the law passed, fracking was illegal. This law certainly does not make it illegal." He continues, "DNR has chosen to wisely temporarily halt granting permits until these rules are done, but there is nothing in the law that provides that that continue indefinitely. So we face the possibility of unregulated fracking."