Hydraulic fracturing might be the ultimate hot-button issue facing our state, especially the region we so fondly call Southern Illinois. It is considered the doorway to an economic boom by the energy industry, but an ecological bomb by those who strive to protect the environment.
It is not a theoretical dispute. The Illinois General Assembly last year approved regulations permitting and governing hydraulic fracturing in the state. The law allows the process to be used in Illinois, once the process of public hearings and rule making is completed.
That could add many more months to the 6 that have elapsed since the passage of hydraulic fracturing regulations. Energy industry officials are concerned about the process becoming too lengthy, which could put Illinois at a competitive disadvantage against other states with energy potential.
Environmentalists, however, feel the process is moving too quickly. Despite the law, some still favor an outright ban against hydraulic fracturing in Illinois. Others support a moratorium that would permit the further expansion and gathering of scientific findings on the controversial process.
There does not appear to be adequate middle ground between the opposing forces. ...
The reasonable and calm pursuit of rules protecting our lives and resources cannot be hijacked into a permanent holding pattern. There is a tremendous opportunity in the New Albany Shale, but one that will not last forever.
The law permits hydraulic fracturing in Illinois, but it must be done with every possible safeguard in place and continually monitored for compliance – and meaningful enforcement and corrective measures when corners are cut, or regulations ignored.
This may be our one golden opportunity. But it is most certainly our only home.