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Illinois Fracking Regulations Pushed Through House, Senate As Drill Date Approaches

Posted: 04/ 5/2012 5:45 pm Updated: 04/ 5/2012 5:45 pm

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Range Resources well site in Washington, Pa. The company is one of many drilling into the Marcellus Shale layer deep underground and "fracking" the area to release natural gas.

In less than a month, "fracking," a controversial drilling method that involves injecting a chemical compound into the earth to release natural gas, is coming to Illinois. In preparation, Illinois lawmakers are scrambling to pass legislation that will solidify regulations to limit the long-term damage of the high-impact drilling method.

Proposed safeguards include Senate Bill 3280, a bill currently being considered in the General Assembly that would define requirements for storage and disposal of wastewater, and require companies to disclose the chemical composition of their "fracking fluid" to the public and the Illinois Department of Natural Resources. An identical bill is currently moving through the House, as well as another piece of legislation that would establish a twelve percent tax on oil and gas revenues.

Lawmakers are rushing to get restrictions on the books before drilling begins, in part to avoid the high-profile mishaps other states have seen with water contamination and lasting environmental damage in areas surrounding drill sites. In Wyoming, the state and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency are in the midst of testing and evaluating contaminated groundwater after an earlier EPA report suggested nearby pollution could have been a side effect of hydraulic fracturing.

Scroll down for a slideshow outlining the pros and cons of expanding hydraulic fracturing.

In Illinois, the industry is poised for growth. Progress Illinois reports that energy companies are competing for property in the southern portion of the state, which sits atop New Albany Shale, a large geologic formation rich in natural gas deposits. A 2011 report by the U.S. Energy Information Administration estimates that the New Albany Shale contains about 11 trillion cubic feet of recoverable natural gas, just below half of what the entire nation consumed last year.

The lucrative payments gas companies are offering will be hard for landowners to turn away. Prices vary from $100 per acre up to $350 apiece, and royalty agreements are hitting up to 17.5 percent, according to Crain's.

Will fracking be good or bad for Illinois? Tell us in the comments.

PRO: Potential Energy Independence
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Estimates by the United States Department of Energy put the number of recoverable barrels of shale gas at around 1.8 trillion. To put that into perspective, Saudi Arabia is estimated to have roughly 2.6 trillion barrels of oil reserves.

Christopher Booker writes for The Telegraph that there are enough world reserves to "keep industrialised civilisation going for hundreds of years"
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Filed by Lizzie Schiffman  |