Fracking watch: Illinois gets in on the energy gold rush

new.albany

June 1, 2013

By Chris Reed

There’s beginning to be almost a sense of inevitability about fracking spreading throughout the United States. Green objections are being overwhelmed by the economic benefits of the newly efficient energy-exploration process, by its positive effects on air pollution and by the dawning awareness that it’s just another heavy industry — not the devil depicted by enviros who are furious that their “peak oil” theory is now laughable.

The latest state where this sense of inevitability has sunk in is the one with a political profile remarkably like California’s. It’s Illinois, in which unions and trial lawyers and urban professionals who live near water (Lake Michigan) dominate politics and team with minority voters to marginalize folks in suburbs and rural areas.

There, the revenue-starved Legislature has come around to fracking’s big upside and is preparing to enact moderate regulations that won’t impede massive energy exploration in the southern part of the state — specifically, in the New Albany Shale, a potentially huge source of energy underneath parts of Illinois, Indiana and Kentucky.

This is from a Wednesday report by AP:

“State records indicate that high-volume oil drilling already has begun in Illinois, where lawmakers and others are scrambling to pass a bill to establish regulations for a practice that has generated intense national debate as energy companies push into new territory.

“Carmi, Ill.-based Campbell Energy LLC submitted a well completion report last June to the Department of Natural Resources, voluntarily disclosing that it used 640,000 gallons of water during hydraulic fracturing, or ‘fracking,’ of a well in White County.

“A regulatory bill awaiting an end-of-session vote by state lawmakers, which wasn’t yet written at the time the well was drilled, defines ‘high-volume’ as using 300,000 gallons or more of fluid during all stages of fracking.”

Is the Golden State coming around, too?

Noreen_Evans1Is there beginning to be a sense of inevitability in California as well?

Maybe.

Reasonable pieces about fracking are popping up in unusual places, even the San Francisco Chronicle.

And it also appears to be dawning on Democratic lawmakers that they could see a revenue gusher if fracking is encouraged in California. Consider these remarks from a staunchly green Democratic lawmaker in the Los Angeles Times:

“Sen. Noreen Evans (D-Santa Rosa) said she would turn her oil severance tax bill into a two-year measure that can be taken back up in January. The measure would raise $2 billion a year for education and state parks with a 9.5% tax on oil pumped from the ground in California, including when hydraulic fracturing or fracking is used.

“’It’s not going away,’ she said about SB 241. ‘If we as a state are going to expand fracking operations, we ought to tax it.’”

That’s not the over-my-dead-body rhetoric of the California branch of the Natural Resources Defense Council or the state’s Sierra Club. That’s a politician sizing up how she can take advantage of a pending development — one who is a Bay Area lawyer, Coastal Conservancy member and “smart growth” advocate. Seems pretty telling.

Fracking watch: Previous posts

No. 1: Germany

No. 2: China

No. 3: Russia

No. 4: Saudi Arabia

No. 5: Brazil

No. 6: Canada

No. 7: Argentina

No. 8: Mexico

No. 9: South Africa

No. 10: Poland

No. 11: Algeria

No. 12: Indonesia

No. 13: Great Britain

 

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