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Winkeler: Let’s stop pretending when it comes to fracking

November 22, 2013 3:00 am  •  BY LES WINKELER, The Southern

Wait a minute!

This can’t be true!

The oil and gas industry is really trying to weaken Illinois’ self-proclaimed toughest fracking laws in the nation?

Who could have seen this coming?

That’s right, Illinois has the toughest fracking laws in the nation — meaning the oil and gas industry has to follow some rules before pumping millions of gallons of toxic chemicals into the literal Land of Lincoln.

I might be a tad misguided here, but if Illinois’ laws were as stringent as we are pretending they are, wouldn’t the state require that all materials pumped into ground be benign.

And, last week we learned that the oil and gas industry is trying to chip away at “the most stringent laws” in the land.

According to an Associated Press report, the first draft of rules being proposed by the Illinois Department of Natural Resources aren’t as draconian as citizens had been led to believe.

“For example, the law requires that wastewater be kept in tanks, rather than open pits used in some other states, but allows emergency overflow into reserve pits. But the proposed rules do not specify how companies should calculate the size of the tanks they’ll need, and allows overflow to be removed seven days after fracking is completed, rather than seven days after it occurs,” The Associated Press reported.

That means the length of time is essentially open-ended.

Yeah, no chance of abuse there. Given the squeaky clean environmental record of extraction companies, there seems little chance of faux emergencies popping up with regularity.

Remember this is the same industry using semantics to try to convince us fracking is safe. The industry claims fracking has been used in Illinois for 60 years, but the high-volume horizontal fracking technique used to extract oil and gas from shale wasn’t developed until 1996.

That’s like equating dynamite and an atomic bomb. Hey, they’re both explosives, right?

Finally, it is gratifying to see the state bow to public opinion and expand the opportunities for citizens to comment on the proposed fracking regulations.

Initially, the state set just a pair of two-hour hearings, one of which was to be Dec. 3 at Rend Lake College.

That seemed particularly despicable when the United States is celebrating the 50th anniversary of the Wilderness Act.

However, it was reported this week that three more public hearings have been scheduled, including a Dec. 19 session at SIU in Carbondale. The other meetings are to be held in Decatur and Effingham.

LES WINKELER is the outdoors writer for The Southern Illinoisan. Contact him at, or call 618-351-5088.


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