Drilling Companies Still Waiting on Fracking Rules

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By Fanna Haile-Selassie
By Ben Jeffords

WSIL -- It's been nearly a year since Illinois lawmakers approved regulations for high volume hydraulic fracturing. But so far, companies haven't been able to get started. They've faced delay after delay, not only for high volume fracking, but also conventional drilling that's been going on for years in Illinois.

"If you look at the big picture, St. Mary's (SM Energy) has already moved out of the basin, they sold their properties," says Richard Straeter, District Manager for Woolsey Energy.
 
Straeter says other companies might follow suit if Illinois doesn't speed up its permitting process. 
 
The Illinois Department of Natural Resources was overwhelmed with nearly 30,000 responses to the law, and Straeter says they're not all from Illinois.
 
"It appears a lot of them are obstructionists. They know they can ball up the system by just sending letters, because the state has to look at everyone's comment," he explains.
 
But it's not just high volume fracking that's delayed. Brad Richards with the Illinois Oil and Gas Association says it now takes nearly two months to get a conventional drilling permit, when it used to take just two weeks. And that's not good for business.
 
"You can go across the river to Indiana and get a permit in a few days. For example, in Kansas, they have an online permitting process where you routinely receive a permit in a half hour or less," says Richards.
 
Straeter says those unexpected delays also mean the loss of production and thousands of dollars a day.
 
"We have the leasing to do, the seismic, the science, and then we have to drill before the lease is up. So, now you throw in there a delay, huge economic impact."
 
The land leases are also running out for many energy companies still waiting to test wells. Richards says the companies will be hard-pressed to spend thousands of dollars to renew them when there is no start date in the near future.
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