Illinois Releases New Draft of Hydraulic Fracturing Rules

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Last Friday, the Illinois Department of Natural Resources (IDNR) released its highly anticipated revised hydraulic fracturing rules. The IDNR had taken the past year to “re-tool” its oil and gas regulations, and took into consideration more than 31,000 comments. The revisions attempt to address many of the issues typically raised by environmentalists in opposition to oil and gas drilling. Some of the more notable revisions require:

  • mandatory site restoration;
  • public application hearings within 30 miles of the proposed site’s county; and
  • hydraulic fracturing fluids be removed from reserve pits within seven days of being introduced.

Several significant revisions come on the heels of an Ohio spill that revealed potential gaps in Ohio’s fracturing-fluid-disclosure laws. The Illinois revisions try to fill these gaps. In Ohio, the state protected proprietary fracturing fluids as trade secrets. This protection allegedly delayed emergency responders’ access to the exact list of chemicals contained in the spill. Although the Illinois rules will still give fracturing companies protection for any legitimate trade secrets contained in its fracturing fluids, the rules require that the company provide information that would help responders react to a spill.

The revisions to the disclosure section of the rules require, among other things, that a company supplement a redacted chemical with additional information such as:

  • a description of the chemical class and function of the redacted chemical;
  • the chemical family and chemical effects of any redacted additive;
  • a detailed justification of why the redacted chemical is a trade secret; and
  • the contact information where the trade secret holder may be reached 24 hours/7 days a week in case of medical emergency.

These revisions are under review by Joint Committee on Administrative Rules – a bipartisan legislative oversight committee – for 45 days, and possibly another 45-day extension. The panel will either sign off, change, or block the rules. Judicial appeals of the rules could follow.

Additional media coverage can be found here.

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DISCLAIMER: Because of the generality of this update, the information provided herein may not be applicable in all situations and should not be acted upon without specific legal advice based on particular situations.

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