Tag Archives: hydrofracking

Protecting Illinois From Fracking

fracking-diagram The prospect of the gas industry coming Illinois to extract gas from beneath our state using high-volume hydraulic fracturing has caused a great deal of controversy and concern, especially in parts of Illinois where leasing for drilling rights has been underway for well over a year. Horror stories from other states about open pits of toxic wastewater, secret brews of toxins injected into the earth, air emissions sickening neighbors, and contaminated drinking water are just a few of the impacts seen elsewhere.

Can we stop the industry from bringing fracking to Illinois? When legislators proposed a two-year moratorium on the practice last year, we strongly supported that proposal, and we support continued calls for a moratorium today. However, we also need to acknowledge that fracking is legal today in Illinois, and for all we know, may already be occurring as you read this. We also need to recognize that our current laws regulating oil and gas drilling, originally passed in 1941, are totally inadequate to deal with the range of issues raised by injecting millions of gallons of chemical-laced fluid deep into the earth only to come surging back with gas and potentially oil. In short, Illinois citizens and our environment, at the moment, are virtually defenseless against against the problems experienced in other states.

That’s why it is essential that Illinois move quickly to get the strongest possible safeguards in place to protect citizens and their water supplies. Fortunately, discussions in Springfield have produced a basic agreement on what would be the strongest set of protections of any state in the country. The open pits for wastewater in use in other states will be banned here, and there will be none of the dumping the water into wastewater treatment plants, which has overwhelmed sewage plants elsewhere. The discharge of any fracking wastewater into surface water will be a felony offense. The industry must disclose what chemicals are used, and the most toxic ones will be banned. Ann Alexander from the Natural Resources Defense Council, who helped represent environmental groups in the negotiations that produced the proposal, has a good rundown on the major provisions of the bill here.

Open pits for wastewater will be banned in Illinois

Open pits for wastewater will be banned in Illinois

We certainly applaud the leaders who recognized the urgency of getting these safeguards in place. Representatives John Bradley (D-Marion) and David Reis (R-Olney) led the talks, and Ann Williams (D-Chicago), Naomi Jakobsson (D-Urbana), and House Majority Leader Barbara Flynn-Currie (D-Chicago) particularly focused on the environmental safeguards. Governor Quinn’s Illinois Department of Natural Resources, which has been advocating for strong legislation for over a year, will be faced with regulating the industry and played a critical role. Attorney General Lisa Madigan’s team fought for the strongest possible regulations at every step of the way.

The bill is certainly not perfect, and its ultimate effectiveness in protecting public health and the environment will be in how it is enforced. This will be a major test for the Department of Natural Resources, which will need significant new resources to do the job. That will be a key issue in the next phase of discussions, which will focus on taxes and fees the industry must pay. If the safeguards in HB2615 are going to work, they must be accompanied by adequate fees, paid by industry, to cover the state’s substantial costs.

We certainly share the concerns of those who live in areas where tracking is likely to occur – they have reason to be concerned. Hopefully, once House Bill 2615 is signed into law, they will be much safer than they are today, and much better protected than citizens in other states facing the same concerns. We may not be able to decide whether fracking comes to Illinois, but we absolutely must decide to make sure we are as protected as we can be.

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Don’t Frack With Illinois!

That’s the message a growing coalition of organizations and concerned citizens is sending to industry and decision-makers regarding the proposal to open Illinois to high-volume hydraulic fracturing–or fracking.

Gas leasing speculation has been quite a spectacle in Illinois, especially in the southeastern counties where shale gas development is thought to be the most promising. We learned early on that the state has virtually no regulations in place to protect the public and the environment from the hazards of fracking. Seeing all to0 clearly the myriad of damages to people, communities and the environment that shale gas development has caused in other states a coalition of environmental organizations came together to address the issue head on.

For nearly a year, Sierra Club and other organizations have established a list of measures that are necessary for the protection of people and places in Illinois. They include:

  • Chemical disclosure–before fracking–of exactly what chemicals are being used in the frack.
  • Baseline groundwater testing before the frack and following monitoring afterwards.
  • Water withdrawal plans.
  • An adequate public notice and appeal process for frack well permits.
  • Adequate setbacks from water supplies, including water wells, streams, ponds and lakes.
  • Prohibition on the use of toxic chemicals such as BTEX chemicals (benzene, toluene, ethylbenzene, and xylene).
  • Prohibition of storing wastewater in open pits.
  • Treating  fracking waste as hazardous waste.
  • Ending clean air act exemptions for fracking sites.

Until industry is willing to accept reasonable regulations that protect the environment and the people who depend upon it for their lives and livelihoods, no permits should be issued for high-volume hydraulic fracturing. Therefore, we continue to support a moratorium on fracking until Illinois has developed robust and comprehensive regulations that protect people and places from an activity that has been so harmful in other parts of the country.

Please ask your state legislators for his or her support by co-sponsoring Senate Bill 3280 with a moratorium on fracking until robust regulations have been developed.

And, please support this important campaign by taking part in the Don’t Frack With Illinois event—a virtual fundraising event sponsored by the Shawnee Group Sierra Club. Win a handcrafted acoustic guitar generously donated by Whipple Creek Guitars in Pomona, Illinois. Visit the event website to buy tickets and your chance to WIN!!

High-volume Hydraulic Fracturing Background Information

Industry is proposing to use high-volume horizontal hydraulic fracturing to reach oil and/or natural gas in the New Albany Shale. After drilling into the shale, which is located between 4,000 to 5,000 feet down, the well bore is then drilled horizontally for one to two miles. Following the drilling the well is then “completed” or “fracked.” Fracking is process in which water, sand and toxic chemicals (fracking fluid) are injected into the well at high pressure to create small cracks in the rock that allow natural gas to freely flow to the surface.

Each well uses between 2 to 8 million gallons of fresh water taken from our lakes and aquifers. Since one well is often fracked up to 18 times and there could be one well for every forty acres of land within the New Albany Shale, this amounts to an enormous quantity of fresh water permanently taken out of the system.

Additionally, an estimated 30% to 70% of the fracking fluid will resurface, bringing back with it toxic substances that are naturally present in underground oil and gas deposits, as well as the chemicals used in the fracking fluid. Industry is proposing to store this toxic brew in open evaporation pits until it can be hauled away in tanker trucks to deep injection wells. Spills and leaks throughout this process are inevitable, putting wells, farm ponds, streams, lakes, and aquifers and the people, pets, livestock and wildlife that use them at great risk.

In many areas, after a well has been fracked, people’s well water has become contaminated by chemicals (some even radioactive) that migrate into aquifers through natural fissures and/or possibly through abandoned wells.

Air pollution is also a big problem. Volatile organic compounds from wastewater flowback pits and airborne chemical releases from the equipment involved in the fracking process all add up to a high level of air pollution in many areas.

Southern Illinois Judge Grants Natural Gas Rights From More Than 1000 People Without Their Permission

Just two weeks ago the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) issued a draft report linking hydraulic fracturing to groundwater contamination. Yet, despite this report, yesterday a Saline County, Illinois judge granted Colorado-based Next Energy, LLC the right to lease mineral rights from more than a thousand people without their permission!

Dimock, PA fracking well

Dimock, PA drilling site of Cabot Oil and Gas. State officials ordered the Houston-based energy company to permanently shut down some of its wells, pay nearly a quarter million dollars in fines, and permanently provide drinking water to affected families for contaminating local drinking water.

Deep beneath the coal seams of Saline County lay the New Albany and Maquoketa shale deposits at 4,200 to 6,100 feet deep respectively. Next Energy, LLC plans to extract natural gas from the deep shale beds with a process called hydraulic fracturing, or fracking. Fracking is process in which water, sand and chemicals are injected into the well at high pressure to create small cracks in the rock that allow natural gas to freely flow to the surface.

Toxic chemicals are used at every stage of the fracking process.  Drilling muds, a combination of toxic and non-toxic substances, are used to drill the well. To facilitate the release of natural gas after drilling, approximately a million or more gallons of fluids, loaded with toxic chemicals, are injected underground under high pressure using diesel-powered heavy equipment that runs continuously during the operation.

One well can be fracked 10 or more times and there can be up to 28 wells on one well pad.  An estimated 30% to 70% of the fracking fluid will resurface, bringing back with it toxic substances that are naturally present in underground oil and gas deposits, as well as the chemicals used in the fracking fluid.

fracking pad and impoundment

Fracking pad with waste water impoundment in Pennsylvania. Photo courtesy of http://www.marcellus-shale.us

Most well pads contain pits that hold used drilling muds, fracking fluids and the contaminated water (produced water) which surfaces with the gas.  Produced water often continues to surface for the life of the well (20 to 30 years) and is often hauled in “water trucks” to large, central evaporation pits.  Many of the chemicals found in drilling and evaporation pits are considered hazardous wastes and upon closure, every pit has the potential to become a superfund site.

In addition to the land and water contamination issues, at each stage of production and delivery, tons of toxic volatile compounds, including benzene, toluene, ethylbenzene, xylene, etc., and fugitive natural gas (methane), escape and mix with nitrogen oxides from the exhaust of diesel-driven equipment to produce ground-level air pollution-causing ozone, which can spread up to 200 miles beyond the immediate region where gas is being produced. Ozone not only causes irreversible damage to the lungs, it is equally damaging to many plants and crops.

groundwater contaminated with methane catches fire

Well water contaminated with methane catches fire at the tap. Photo from the film, Gasland.

Hydraulic fracturing is one of only two underground injection processes exempted from the federal Safe Drinking Water Act. States where hydraulic fracturing occurs have varying regulatory requirements, some of which are weak. For example, in Illinois oil and gas companies are not required to publicly disclose the types and amounts of chemicals that are injected underground in the fracturing process. In other words, nearby residents or landowners have no way of knowing what kinds of chemicals are being injected underground that may have contaminated their drinking water.

Between the county judge’s overeager bow to industry and Illinois’ oil and gas industry exemptions from the safe drinking water act, the citizens of Saline County are being fracked in more ways than one!

Sources:
The Endocrine Disruption Exchange, Inc.
Sierra Club