With oil companies leasing millions of acres around the country in a rush to extract oil and gas reserves, more states will face similar challenges.
Although Illinois’ proposed regulations might not work for every state, the unusual model of cooperation might, depending on the relationship between industry and environmentalists, Denzler said. Even now, though, Illinois’ agreement is “very precarious,” and his group has warned that any attempts to change it before it comes for a vote “could tip it one way or another.”
More than 170 bills were introduced in 29 states last year to regulate oil and gas drilling, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures. Only 14 became law. Many were simply to define whether local, state or federal government could regulate fracking. The bills don’t include regulations drafted by state regulatory agencies, rather than lawmakers.
California state Sen. Hannah-Beth Jackson said Illinois was able to negotiate many of the same protections she wants in her state, where energy companies are eying a shale formation near Santa Barbara that may have four times more oil than North Dakota. She said regulations proposed by the governor’s office were inadequate.
“It would be wonderful, frankly, if we could get everybody to sit down,” said Jackson, who introduced a bill to regulate fracking wastewater. “In California, there is the perception the companies are stonewalling and do not want to be subject to any oversight. I think if they are willing to sit down and talk, that would certainly be best way to do it.”
Environmentalists and industry have worked together to control pollution in the past, including on individual fracking issues in some states, though none was as comprehensive as the Illinois bill. But many environmental groups would rather forbid fracking completely.
“You can’t regulate fracking to be cleaner,” said Dan Jacobson, legislative director of Environment California. “We’re at such a tipping point with climate now.”
Even in Illinois, some environmental groups don’t support the bill and are mobilizing to seek an outright ban. Fracking opponents interrupted Bradley while he spoke at a conference in southern Illinois. They plan another protest at a conference of county officials.
Bringing both sides together “is something that should absolutely happen,” said Steve Everly, spokesman for Energy in Depth, the educational arm of the Independent Petroleum Association of America. But he said environmental groups that participate “have to continue to support” the regulations afterward.
“If you put together the right formula, you can move forward,” he said.
It is possible that there will be more collaboration to establish better safeguards for air, water and climate, said Mike Brune, executive director of the Sierra Club. “But as we learn more about the true impacts of gas, and more and more communities are questioning whether we need it at all … we’ll definitely see more conflicts.”<< previous 1 2 3 4