Thousands voice their opinions on proposed `fracking` regs - FOX 35 News Orlando

Thousands voice their opinions on proposed `fracking` regs for Ill.

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CHICAGO (FOX 32 News) -

Supporters predict hydraulic fracturing for oil and gas will bring tens of thousands of new jobs to Illinois, but opponents claim it will be an environmental nightmare ruining some of the state's most beautiful natural attractions. Friday was the final day for the public to comment on proposed new rules on fracking and thousands made their feelings known.

State officials estimate at least 15,000 people commented on the proposed fracking regulations, pro and con.

"We are asking the IDNR to do a complete rewrite of these rules," Dr. Lora Chamberlain with Frack-Free Illinois said.

About a dozen demonstrators stood in front of The Loop's Thompson Center late Friday to deliver a message to Gov. Quinn's Department of Natural Resources. They demand he slow down a rules-making process that others want speeded up that could allow those drilling for oil and gas this year in Illinois to use hydraulic fracturing.

The state currently ranks 15th in crude oil production and 27th in natural gas, thanks to wells downstate that have been pumping for more than a century. Some believe vast additional deposits could be released through hydraulic fracturing. The technique uses a high-pressure mix of water, sand and chemicals to shatter thick rock formations that hold oil and gas. Speculators hope to drill near some of Southern Illinois's most scenic countryside, including the Shawnee National Forest and the Garden of the Gods.

But foes forecast an environmental disaster.

"Fracking is so dangerous," Dr. Chamberlain explained. "It can pollute the water. It can pollute the air. It causes earthquakes, blowouts. Workers have died."

Despite such claims, every single state legislator from the areas where fracking might take place voted last year for a bill to legalize it in Illinois.

Democratic State Rep. Brandon Phelps told FOX 32 News: "Slow it down? I wish [Gov. Quinn's Administration] would hurry it up and get us those new jobs and tax revenue. Unemployment is over 11 percent in some counties here in Southern Illinois. We can't wait."

State regulators have until mid-November to come up with a final set of rules on hydraulic fracturing. They could act sooner, but in a statement released Friday night, IDNR evaded a specific timetable: "We are carefully reviewing all comments and will propose updated rules later this year."

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