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Activists Call For Smaller-Scale Fracking Transparency

Ray Bodden - Flickr / CC-by 2.0

Activists are calling on Illinois to improve transparency in the oil and gas extraction technique known as fracking.

Illinois began regulating high-volume fracking in 2013, but most wells in the state aren’t large enough to fit that definition.

Organizers from Illinois People’s Action and Fair Economy Illinois at a press conference Wednesday said low-volume fracking is more common, and can be kept covert.

“A horizontal well could go right under your property and you wouldn’t know about it,” said William Rau of People’s Action. “There are no defensive actions you could take like, for example, getting a test on your water well.”

Low-volume fracking is governed by the Oil and Gas Act of 1951. According to People’s Action, a confidentiality clause allows fracking companies to pay a few hundred dollars for a permit and then frack in secret for two years.

More than 1,000 such permits were filed in 2014, Rau said, with the number dropping to around 250 the following two years.

Since high-volume regulation began in 2013, the Illinois Department of Natural Resources issued just one permit, but the company never used it.

The groups support legislation requiring the same oversight for all fracking. It would make two sets of information public: where fracking is happening, and what chemicals are being pumped into the ground.

Two other pieces of legislation were discussed at the news conference. One would cap the amount large businesses collect from consumer sales tax through the “retailers’ discount.” Another is aimed at ending so-called offshore tax sheltering.

The Illinois Chamber of Commerce issued a statement opposing the latter legislation, claiming it “attempts to fix a problem that doesn’t exist.”

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