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Fracking bill on hold for now

14 hours ago  •  BY NICK MARIANO, The Southern

Despite some media reports that the oil and gas industry has pulled its support of a bill seeking new regulations on horizontal, high volume hydraulic fracturing, industry representatives on Friday said they remain committed to the original bill in the General Assem-bly.

It’s the latest amendment added to the bill, known as Amendment 3, they oppose, meaning a return to the negotiation table.

“The GROW-Il Coalition supports the compromised agreement that was reached … that is contained in Amendments 1 and 2 in HB2615,” Mark Denzler, vice president and chief operating officer for the Illinois Manufacturer’s Asso-ciation.

The IMA is one of several groups that make up the GROW Coalition, which also includes the Illinois Petroleum Council, the Illinois AFL-CIO and a number of other groups.

“We are opposed to the last-minute amendment that has been floated by the Operating Engineers that was included in Amendment 3,” Denzler, speaking on behalf of GROW, said.

“As with any legislative process, there are always bumps in the road and twists and turns. We continue to have discussions with legislators and with the one union that has offered that amendment,” he said.

Denzler said the new amendment, introduced late last week by Rep. John Bradley, D-Marion, a chief sponsor of the bill on fracking, calls for an Illi-nois licensed well-water contractor.

Denzler said the problem with the amendment is that raises a safety issue because well-water contractors lack the knowledge and ability to work on an oil well.

Attempts the reach Operating Engineers Local 150, reportedly behind the push for the amendment, were unsuccessful.

State Rep. John Bradley, D-Marion, acknowledged the new amendment adds a local jobs component to the bill.

“I think a two-week break from the Legisla-ture, allowing them to continue to work through that local jobs issue and allow a cool down is a very good thing,” Bradley said.

Bradley noted it is im-portant to ensure some jobs created as a result of fracking are given to local workers, but he added that it is a positive the industry had not pulled its entire support of the pending fracking bill.

The bill was introduced about a month ago and would incorporate fees and taxes levied against oil and gas companies, as well as a number of stopgap measures geared toward protecting water supplies and other environmental concerns.

While critics say the bill falls short of measures that protect the environment, Bradley strongly disagreed, calling the regulations the strongest in country if passed. Talks involved numerous interests and state agencies, he said.

“We were very careful to put this bill together right and that we had a framework that first of all protected the groundwater in Southern Illinois, that protected the water that me and my children drink,” he said.

“We made that clear at every meeting that, that was going to be the prior-ity,” he said.

Although the bill has support from some environmental groups – though they say a study moratorium is preferred– members of Southern Illinoisan Against Fracturing the Environment are steadfast in their opposition to Bradley’s bill.

Richard Fedder, a group member who serves on the organization’s volunteer legal team, said nothing in the bill ensures the environment will be protected. Although he said he recognizes the effort behind the bill, it fails to address a number of concerns.

“Americans have a remarkable can-do attitude. We often plunge in first and fix things later. But if we poison our water supply, it cannot be fixed. … (The bill) simply has too many gaping holes in the protections it provides,” he recently wrote in a published letter to the editor.


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