Today, Americans for Prosperity – Illinois State Director David W. From submitted the following comments to the Illinois Department of Natural Resources, who’s charged with crafting the regulations related to hydraulic fracturing, or “fracking,” which the Legislature approved last year.
“On behalf of our 63,000 activists across Illinois, Americans for Prosperity is encouraged that the Department of Natural Resources proposed regulations may soon expand hydraulic fracturing in our state. For years, hardworking Illinoisans have been suffering in a stagnating state economy because of unnecessary government stymie. “Fracking,” as it is popularly called, would put Illinois back on track towards economic growth by creating thousands of jobs to safely increase extraction from the New Albany Shale.
“It’s no secret that our state has been hit hard by the recent economic downturn. From 2008 to 2012, Illinois has lost 205,000 jobs according to data from the U.S. Bureau of Statistics, an incredible loss of 3.5% of total jobs in our state. Today, Illinois has the fourth-highest unemployment rate among the 50 states at an unacceptable 8.7% as of November. Clearly Illinois needs to adopt public policies more conducive to growth before our ship of state sinks with the drowning economy.
“Fortunately, one state on the opposite end of the unemployment list is a model of how fracking can turn Illinois’s economy around. North Dakota leads the nation with the lowest unemployment rate at 2.7%, triggered by a fracking oil boom. The Peace Garden State is fortunate to sit atop the Bakken formation, one of the largest oil shales in the United States at 200,000 square miles. North Dakota’s policy makers wisely chose to approve fracking in their state without excessive regulatory stymie to allow the market’s engine of production to bring prosperity to its state. As a result, North Dakota has led the nation in employment, personal income, and GDP growth from 2002 to 2012 – respectively at 30%, 67% and 71%.
“Fortunately, Illinois is also blessed with access to a sizable oil shale like North Dakota. The New Albany Shale is estimated to have some 214 million barrels of recoverable oil, many of which are accessible only through fracking’s horizontal drilling techniques. Illinois can experience a similar oil boom to North Dakota if the Department of Natural Resources approves the proposed regulations in a timely manner.
“Every day that passes is a missed opportunity to create thousands of jobs in across the state, not just directly through increased oil production but indirectly throughout the economy. More jobs in Illinois’ oil industry means more jobs in the private economy to provide goods and services to the newly hired workers. Furthermore, this economic activity means more public funds for Illinois’ state and municipal governments at a time of record deficit, debts, and unfunded liabilities.
“Granted, the regulations aren’t perfect. Specifically, Section 245.270’s allowance for “any person having an interested that is or may be adversely affected” by fracking is so overly broad that it can easily be abused by environmentalist interests deliberately seeking to stymie the fracking process. While public hearings are understandable for property owners nearby fracking sites to be fully informed, the bar for public participation is so low that out-of-state interests can halt drilling with little merit.
“While this section should undoubtedly be reviewed, the Department of Natural Resources should not be swayed to hold up fracking any further through regulatory delay by these very same environmentalist interests. The current proposals represent a great compromise between the oil industry, state, and environmental interests to ensure fracking proceeds safely in our state. Not only has the oil industry agreed to a generous severance tax, the proposed regulations are the toughest in the nation for an extraction process that has existed for decades without any major incident.
“Indeed, it would be even more beneficial to economic growth for the Department to allow for fracking without stifling regulations, like they do in North Dakota. However, given Illinois’ political climate and the great potential the process has to unleash unprecedented prosperity on our state, the Department should move to approve the regulations with a tightened hearing rule as soon as possible. The nearly 7 million unemployed Illinoisans cannot wait any longer for our state to invest in growth.”