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Elizabeth McCarthy/MEDILL

Each pin represents a local measure supporting either stronger regulations or a moratorium on fracking. Click above or on the related link to see a larger version of the map.


Take a cross-country tour of U.S. fracking battlegrounds

by Elizabeth McCarthy
Dec 11, 2013


FIGHT

Elizabeth McCarthy/MEDILL

People showed support for stronger rules regulating fracking at a November public hearing in Chicago. Illinois is just one of many states across the country that has become a battleground over the controversial hydraulic fracturing method of extracting oil and natural gas from deep underground shale deposits.

Industry and environmental groups are both unhappy with the newly released proposed rules to regulate hydraulic fracturing for oil and natural gas in Illinois, one of the latest states to join the fracking fray.

The draft regulations, issued recently by the Illinois Department of Natural Resources, are meant to safeguard against water and soil contamination, air pollution, and other safety risks.

But environmental groups say the rules undercut some of the strongest provisions in the bill passed in June, by, for example, making it difficult for health workers to get access to chemical information in the case of an emergency.

"There's no way Faith in Place would've supported the statute if we had known these would've been the rules," said Brian Sauder, policy director of Faith in Place, an environmental nonprofit. "These rules do not reflect what we worked on in the legislative process."

The oil and gas industry is expressing concern over the regulations will be too burdensome to comply with. Public hearings on the draft rules are showing strong opposition. Several towns and counties in Southern Illinois have passed moratoria on fracking.

Illinois isn't the only state where fracking battles are playing out. From New York to California, here's what's going on in some other states across the country.

Colorado

The oil and gas industry in Colorado is beginning a legal battle with cities that have banned fracking. In early December, the Colorado Oil and Gas Association sued the cities of Fort Collins and Lafayette, which have both passed ordinances prohibiting the process. The association seeks court orders to block the bans, which it claims are preempted by state regulations. Broomfield, another Colorado town that voted to ban fracking, is being sued by the Broomfield Balanced Energy Coalition, a pro-fracking group.

California

Like Illinois, California recently passed draft rules to regulate fracking in the state. Public hearings are underway across the state. Initial reactions from environmental groups show concern that the regulations do not offer enough protections for people and the environment, while the oil and gas industry has reported called them “balanced.” A number of cities and counties around the state have passed measures supporting stronger regulations or an outright moratorium on fracking.

New York

New York State has a de facto moratorium on fracking, in place since 2008. The moratorium was put in place by then-governor David Patterson, who ordered the Department of Environmental Conservation to conduct an environmental review of the process and submit a report before the state would move forward. The moratorium is still in place, pending a health department review and Governor Andrew Cuomo’s decision on the matter. Environmental groups are pleased with the delay. But the oil and gas industry and some landowners are unhappy, and some have threatened lawsuits to force a decision.

Pennsylvania

In 2012, the state adopted legislation overhauling its natural gas drilling laws. The bill removes local government powers to zone and regulate natural gas drilling, meaning cities that have placed moratoria or bans on fracking may not be able to enforce them. A group of towns challenged the law as violating the Pennsylvania state constitution, and won in lower courts. Governor Tom Corbett’s administration appealed the decision, arguing the state can preempt local zoning and regulation. The case is pending before the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania.