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Comment period ends on ‘fracking’ rule changes

Published: Friday, Jan. 3, 2014 11:17 p.m. CDT

CARBONDALE – The Illinois Department of Natural Resources accepted public comments through Friday on its proposed rules to govern the high-volume oil and gas extraction method known as “fracking.” It then will decide in the coming weeks if it will make changes based on that feedback, officials said.

A coalition of environmental and community groups that opposes fracking said Friday they had delivered 18,000 comments to the DNR; agency spokesman Chris McCloud said it had received 5,000 comments online as of Wednesday. Residents also were permitted to mail in comments and many spoke at public hearings held in November and December.

Fracking – short for hydraulic fracturing – uses a high-pressure mixture of water, sand and chemicals to crack and hold open thick rock formations, releasing trapped oil and gas. Combined with horizontal drilling, it allows access to formerly out-of-reach deposits. Supporters say it will create thousands of jobs but opponents fear it could pollute water resources.

The state’s first-ever fracking regulations, negotiated with the help of some environment and industry groups, were hailed as the toughest in the nation when they were signed into law by Gov. Pat Quinn last summer. The DNR, which will enforce them, must adopt rules to reflect the law and published a first draft in November. But opponents complain the DNR’s proposed rules are inadequate and in some cases weakening the regulations passed by lawmakers.

Energy companies hope to begin fracking this year in the New Albany Shale formation in southern Illinois, where they hope significant oil deposits lie 5,000 feet or more below the surface.

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