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Illinois Senate Passes Fracking Bill

On Thursday, April 26, 2012, the Illinois State Senate unanimously passed a bill, SB 3280,setting standards for the extraction of hydrocarbons from shale using hydraulic fracturing, known as “fracking,” in Illinois. Fracking uses a mixture of water, sand and chemicals to reach underground gas reserves. Drilling activity is expected to occur in southern Illinois near the New Albany Shale formation. SB 3280 has been described as a compromise between the various stakeholders, including industry, landowners and environmental groups.

If also passed by the Illinois House of Representatives and signed by Governor Pat Quinn, the legislation authorizes the Illinois Department of Natural Resources (“IDNR”) to promulgate rules regulating the technology used. Under the proposed legislation, well operators must (a) explain how the produced fluid is disposed; and (b) disclose the amount of water and the amount of certain chemical ingredients used. The bill also allows well operators to declare certain information as trade secret, such as the amount of the chemicals used and the order they are administered.

The bill does not directly address air emissions from fracking wells. As rock formations are fractured, methane and volatile organic compounds (“VOCs”) can escape into the atmosphere. Use of equipment that captures rather than combusts the gases that would otherwise escape during well completions is known as “green completion.” Regulation of such air emissions from fracking may be addressed in future legislation. The United States Environmental Protection Agency (“USEPA”) recently finalized rules on this very topic. On April 17, 2012, USEPA issued a final rule regulating VOCs and certain other pollutants emitted by fracking, but delayed the green completion requirements until 2015.

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