Lawmakers are giving up on an attempt to override state regulators in order to jumpstart fracking in Illinois. But they still say Gov. Pat Quinn's administration is dragging its feet on a potential economic boom.
It's been a year since hydraulic fracturing, known as fracking, was approved in Illinois. The law was hard-fought, but in the end, industry and environmental interest groups signed off.
But the industry is still waiting on the state's Department of Natural Resources to draft a set of rules. DNR says it's spent substantial time reviewing comments from the public. But Representative David Reis, a Republican from downstate Willow Hill, says those comments are largely carbon copies of the same environmental-activist script, and that DNR is using that as an excuse.
"Politically driven delays by the governor and his administrations and departments are single-handedly stymieing this process," he said.
The coalition of pro-fracking groups says once fracking begins, thousands of jobs could be created, especially attractive to high-unemployment areas of southern Illinois.
Rep. John Cavaletto (R-Salem) says his area of Marion County has many fracking contracts waiting to go. "We're sitting there waiting," he said. "We have 11 percent unemployment and it's time we put some people back to work in our area....We're deeply in need of jobs and people working, people paying taxes and growing this state back."
But environmental groups say DNR needs time to draft rules that keep up with changing technology. They say the now-dead legislative attempt to override DNR would have subverted their truce.
DNR spokesman Chris Young says the agency may be taking its time, but promises the rules will be done before the Nov. 15 deadline.
"Since we are creating a new regulatory program from the ground up, it is important that we do it right," he said. "The IDNR takes this responsibility very seriously."