Let's put fracking to vote
Here's more proof that politics always trumps policy in the Land of Lincoln.
Illinois residents need jobs, government at all levels needs revenue and passing a "fracking" bill in Springfield is a good way to achieve both goals.
So why is legislation, which has the backing of both business and environmental groups, dozens of legislators and Gov. Pat Quinn, stuck in an Illinois House committee when it could be passed and signed into law?
The answer to this and so many other legislative questions is this: House Speaker Michael Madigan, the all-powerful Chicago Democrat, wants it that way.
There is considerable speculation as to why he wants it that way. Some say he's trying to squeeze more tax concessions from the oil industry. Some suggest he's doing a favor for organized labor. Some suggest that he's holding the fracking bill hostage so he can bludgeon downstate legislators into voting for other legislation they might not favor.
With Madigan, one never really knows until after it's all over. So time will tell.
But, suffice it to say, it won't be in the public's best interest for the General Assembly to adjourn without passing a "fracking" bill.
The legislation represents a potentially strong economic boost for downstate, where oil companies are already signing leases to explore for energy using this sophisticated new method.
Hydraulic fracturing — fracking — uses high-pressure mixtures of sand, water and chemicals to crack rock formations and release previously impossible-to-reach oil and natural gas. Environmentalists have raised objections to the process, but the bill pending in Illinois includes safeguards worked out by the attorney general's office, environmental groups and oil and gas lobbyists.
As is the case in other states where fracking has revitalized the economy, Illinois is potentially rich in undiscovered oil and gas. Specifically, an area in southern Illinois identified as the New Albany shale is ripe for exploration. But nothing can or will be done if the Legislature does not act.
Another month or so won't make much difference, so Madigan's gamesmanship is not fatal. But this has to get done. If the fracking bill does not pass, Illinois has thrown away another opportunity to boost its economy.