SPRINGFIELD — House Democrats rammed through legislation, with eight hours remaining in the spring session, to impose on two-year moratorium on horizontal hydraulic fracturing for oil and gas in Illinois.
The legislation, SB 3280, sponsored by Rep. Naomi Jakobsson, D-Urbana, was approved 11-6 on a party-line vote. In order to get to the governor's desk, however, the bill will need to be approved by the full House and Senate by midnight.
Supporters said the moratorium is needed in order for a 13-member task force to be appointed and to study what type of "fracking" regulation is needed in Illinois.
But opponents said the measure would severely damage the oil and gas industry in Illinois, and strike a blow against economic recovery in southeastern Illinois where companies have signed leases to explore.
No companies are currently practicing hydraulic fracturing in Illinois, where large volumes of water and chemicals are used to explore for gas and oil.
"We estimate there were 10 to 12 who were leasing — I'll use past tense now because they're going home," said Brad Richards, executive vice of the Illinois Oil & Gas Association. "The moratorium, just to have it get floated around, makes a lot of these companies question the political risk here.
"We want to tell people that we're friendly to business but this clearly indicates otherwise. We're sending out a very clear signal that we're not interested in oil and gas development with this type of vote."
But supporters said the state must step in to prevent water contamination and other environmental problems.
"There are enormous challenges to developing a regulatory regime adequate to contain the environmental and health threats that natural gas fracking presents," said Max Muller of Environment Illinois. "That's due to the high volumes of toxic-laced fluids that are used — 2 to 7 million gallons per frack. The old style of drilling that Illinois is familiar with uses much less water, much less toxic chemicals."