Tension mounts over fracking regulatory bill

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Reporter - Kendall Downing

MARION, Ill. - Controversial yet crucial? A bill laying out guidelines for hydraulic fracturing, or fracking as it's called, is still sitting in an Illinios House committee.

Fracking is a controversial method of obtaining natural gas from shale by drilling far below the earth's surface.

This week, Illinois Republican lawmakers expressed frustration Democratic House Speaker Michael Madigan hadn't called the regulatory measure for a vote.

Marion, Illinois Representative John Bradley filed the bill back in February. It was read once in the house, but sent back to the Rules Committee.

For now, Illinois House Speaker Michael Madigan believes the bill is not tough enough. The Chicago Democrat has said publicly he supports a moratorium on the drilling technique.

But there may be some action, soon.

For the past few months, Liz Patula's had her eyes on Springfield.

"The regulation we'd like to see is a moratorium, so this can be studied more carefully," she said.

Patula is the co-founder of SAFE. It stands for Southern Illinoisans Against Fracturing Our Envrionment. She started the group more than a year ago, and says support for her cause in opposition to local fracking is gaining ground.

"As more people understand the issues, they realize how serious it is," said Patula.

The bill to regulate fracking in the Illinois House has hit a few snags.

But Speaker Michael Madigan's spokesperson, Steve Brown, said the regulatory bill will likely be called for a vote before the end of May despite speculation to the contrary.

"Some of the unresolved issues that relate to fracking probably could be resolved," said Brown.

The speaker is pushing for a clarified revenue stream and safeguards to make sure fracking drillers are more qualified.

"It's a great way to decrease our reliance on imported crude oil, reduce energy costs, and bring revenue to the state government," said U.S. Representative John Shimkus.

Congressman Shimkus said state lawmakers need to allow fracking sooner rather than later. Competition, nationally, is fierce, and the jobs and money could pass Illinois by.

"If we don't do it, then these folks will go elsewhere, and maybe that economic activity will happen in another state," said Shimkus.

All Liz Patula and her group want is time.

"We think the reasonable response is let's look at this and study it before we plow forward with it," she said.

But state lawmakers seem poised to deal with the issue before they head home for the summer.

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