Local Groups Urge State to Speed Up Fracking

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By Stephanie Tyrpak

WILLIAMSON CO. -- Frustration is growing for groups hoping to bring hydraulic fracturing and the possibility of jobs to southern Illinois.

It's been more than a year since Gov. Quinn signed the fracking bill into law. The industry is still in limbo waiting for the state to approve the official rules.
 
Some pro-fracking groups tie it back to Gov. Quinn's office. They say he's trying win votes in the next election, and point out that other bills passed around the same time are further along.
 
On Monday, those local leaders and industry representatives came together in Marion to urge the state to pick up the pace.
 
Winning the votes to bring hydraulic fracturing to Illinois was the first battle; several groups thought they won that fight last year.
 
"You had labor, you had business, you had the Farm Bureau, and you had the Sierra Club...The Sierra Club, who all stood together at a press event like this," said Mark Denzler with the Illinois Manufacturers' Association. 
 
Nearly 400 days have gone by with little progress. Illinois Department of Natural Resources has been slow at hiring people to handle hydraulic fracturing. 
 
"This should be a quick and fairly easy process to move forward," said Jason Keller with the AFL-CIO. 
 
The delay is one that local lawmakers feel is costing the region jobs and money. They fear it might push the oil and gas companies to neighboring states.
 
"North Dakota you can't even find people to work at McDonald's anymore just because they're all working in the fracking industry," said Rep. Brandon Phelps. "And we need that here in southern Illinois."
 
They also feel that the Governor's Office is now bowing to pressure from outside-the-area environmental groups.
 
"I don't know of any project that we have ever undertaken that there wasn't some jackass crawl out of the woodwork and oppose it," said Marion Mayor Bob Butler. 
 
Those opposed to fracking aren't surprised the rule-making process is moving slow.
 
"It's a lot of stuff to wade through," said Annette McMichael with S.A.F.E. "We had 36,000 comments in 30 key areas that we felt needed revision."
     
McMichael contends that these are local people concerned about the impact on the water, the air, and the workers.
 
"Until we can make sure the safety regulations are in place, I don't think we can even talk about whether they go somewhere else," said McMichael. "That's immaterial. Safety comes first."
 
McMichael says they are now working on the Southern Illinois Solutions Project. It's still in the early planning stages, but they want to bring renewable energy jobs to the region.
 
The Governor's Office says the hydraulic fracturing rule-making process is on target and will meet the law's deadline of November 15th. The state is also in the middle of hiring 15 new staff members who will handle the permitting process.
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