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Ohio Utica Shale

Illinois eco-groups, landowners rally against fracking proposal

By Bob Downing Published: March 13, 2013

From the Associated Press:

Environmentalists and land owners in Illinois rallied Tuesday against a proposal that would jumpstart fracking in Illinois.

The bill is among the strictest in the nation but was written with help from the oil and gas industries, which have been seeking certainty in the law before investing too heavily in the practice.

Fracking uses high-pressure mixtures of water, sand or gravel and chemicals to crack deep rock formations that then release oil and natural gas. Bruce Ratain, of advocacy organization Environment Illinois, and others are seeking a 2-year moratorium on the practice. Ratain said that would allow for more environmental and health impact studies as well as for advances in drilling technology that might ease problems.

Some land owners say they were ignored during the negotiations in which the fracking regulatory bill was crafted and fear their communities' water could be polluted and that fracking could cause earthquakes.

Tabitha Tripp, who lives on 10 acres in Union County, was upset that her legislators supported the fracking proposal.

"I have a home, a well and two kids, and all it would take is one spill and I would lose everything," Tripp said. "That's why I'm here. It's important that the people that represent us in the Illinois congress know that we are awake and are aware and we don't want this going on in Southern Illinois."

Ratain said fracking has been "a rolling environmental disaster" in other states. He said Illinois' proposed new regulations — while tougher overall than those in other states — don't include provisions that environmentalists and land owners consider essential, including keeping control of fracking activities local, banning the use of toxic chemicals and requiring drilling sites be farther from residential areas.

Even so, he understands why some environmental groups, including the Natural Resources Defense Council, helped write the regulations.

"At the same time as we're idealistic, we're also pragmatic," he said. "The worst thing for Illinois would be the status quo, with no regulations or restrictions whatsoever."

The regulatory bill, introduced two weeks ago by Rep. John Bradley, D-Marion, was drafted with the help of the oil and gas industry, some environmental groups and lawmakers, and has been touted as among the toughest in the nation.

The protesters Tuesday said their efforts were raising awareness about the issue, but legislative measures introduced in the House and Senate to establish a moratorium have almost no traction compared with the widespread backing for the bill authorizing the practice.

Each moratorium bill has fewer than five sponsors, while the regulatory proposal has more than 50. Rep. Kelly Cassidy, who co-sponsored the delay but now supports the regulatory measure, said getting strong regulations like those contemplated in the House proposal "is the best next thing."

"I can appreciate that the folks who are here today, they want nothing but a moratorium," said Cassidy, D-Chicago. "But the reality is, under current Illinois law there's no regulation, they (energy companies) could be doing anything, and there aren't 60 votes to pass a moratorium."

Lawmakers also attempted to move a moratorium bill during last year's session but it was not approved.

But the lure of jobs — as many as 40,000, by one estimate — in Southern Illinois may be too much for lawmakers to pass up.

Leases already have been signed on hundreds of thousands of acres in Southern Illinois, where studies have suggested the New Albany Shale, roughly 5,000 feet below the surface, may hold significant gas and oil reserves.

The House Revenue and Finance Committee is scheduled to discuss the measures Thursday. Hunter's Senate moratorium bill will be heard Thursday in the chamber's Energy Committee.

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Utica and Marcellus shale web sites

Ohio Department of Natural Resources' Division of Oil and Gas Resources Management State agency Web site.

ODNR Division of Oil and Gas Resources Management. State drilling permits. List is updated weekly.

ODNR Division of Geological Survey.

Ohio Environmental Protection Agency.

Ohio State University Extension.

Ohio Farm Bureau.

Ohio Oil and Gas Association, a Granville-based group that represents 1,500 Ohio energy-related companies.

Ohio Oil & Gas Energy Education Program.

Energy In Depth, a trade group.

Marcellus and Utica Shale Resource Center by Ohio law firm Bricker & Eckler.

Utica Shale, a compilation of Utica shale activities.

Landman Report Card, a site that looks at companies involved in gas and oil leases.FracFocus, a compilation of chemicals used in fracking individual wells as reported voluntarily by some drillers.

Chesapeake Energy Corp,the Oklahoma-based firm is the No. 1 driller in Ohio.

Rig Count Interactive Map by Baker Hughes, an energy services company.

Shale Sheet Fracking, a Youngstown Vindicator blog.

National Geographic's The Great Shale Rush.

The Ohio Environmental Council, a statewide eco-group based in Columbus.

Buckeye Forest Council.

Earthjustice, a national eco-group.

Stop Fracking Ohio.

People's Oil and Gas Collaborative-Ohio, a grass-roots group in Northeast Ohio.

Concerned Citizens of Medina County, a grass-roots group.

No Frack Ohio, a Columbus-based grass-roots group.

Fracking: Gas Drilling's Environmental Threat by ProPublica, an online journalism site.

Penn State Marcellus Center.

Pipeline, blog from Pittsburgh Post-Gazette on Marcellus shale drilling.

Allegheny Front, environmental public radio for Western Pennsylvania.