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Illinois Moves Closer to Legalizing Fracking – But Not Without a Price

Written by Ankin Law Office

Could Illinois become the site of the next big oil boom? And, if so, is that even a good thing?

Now that the Illinois legislature has voted to allow fracking in Illinois, albeit with strict regulations, some experts speculate that Illinois’ fossil fuel reserves could open the door to the oil industry in Illinois.

Fracking, or hydraulic fracturing, collects gas and oil reserves by injecting massive volumes of water, sand, and chemicals underground at high pressures in order to break up rock formations. Until now, Illinois had no fracking regulations and companies were not required to indicate which drilling method they used to extract oil and gas. Accordingly the Illinois Department of Natural Resources (IDNR) had no way of knowing when drilling was taking place or how extensive the drilling was.

Under Illinois’ new fracking legislation, companies that want to drill must first register and qualify for fracking privileges before applying for a permit. The law instructs the IDNR to enact certain rules and regulations regarding fracking, and creates a template for such rules. Among the template’s provisions are the following requirements:

  • Oil and gas companies must test water before, during, and after drilling
  • Oil and gas companies are held liable if contamination is found after drilling begins.
  • Oil and gas companies must tell the IDNR what chemicals they use and control air pollution.

The new legislation also gives private residents the right to sue if they believe they have been harmed, which could prove to be a much-used provision given that many experts say that fracking can be dangerous to the environment and residents. Among principal causes of concern are: the potential harm to groundwater from fracking fluids, damage to rural roads, and possible toxic tort contamination.

As we reported, a recent study shows that residents who live within a half-mile of fracking operations may be exposed to air pollutants five times more than the federal hazard standard. According to this article in the Denver Post, the study found that volatile organic chemicals were five times above the federal Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) Hazard Index level at which there was little likelihood that emissions would cause health problems.  The chemicals used in fracking have been found to result in neurological or respiratory conditions, such as eye irritation, headaches, sore throat and difficulty breathing, according to the study.

Although Governor Pat Quinn promised to quickly sign the bill into law, he said that it would take three to six months for the IDNR to adopt rules to mirror the new regulations. Furthermore, the IDNR must now hire more than 50 engineers, inspectors, lawyers and other experts to implement its regulatory program.

Exposure to toxic chemicals of any kind can lead to serious health complications.  If you or a loved one has been involved in a toxic chemicals accident, the Chicago toxic chemical attorneys at Ankin Law Offices can help you obtain the compensation you deserve.  The legal theories involved in toxic tort lawsuit, such as premises liability, defective product or wrongful death claims, are complex and require a thorough factual investigation and comprehensive examination of the applicable legal issues.

The Chicago environmental tort attorneys at Ankin Law Offices have significant experience representing victims in premises liability, personal injury, and wrongful death lawsuits and we will work to get you the compensation you deserve. Contact our office at (312) 600-0000 if you have been injured by fracking or another environmental tort.