CHICAGO (AP) — A group of southern Illinois landowners has sued the Department of Natural Resources in a bid to stop the state’s new rules for high-volume oil and gas drilling from taking effect, saying the agency violated several rulemaking procedures as it worked to implement a state law to regulate the practice.
The lawsuit filed Monday in Madison County Circuit Court seeks a preliminary injunction, and also names Illinois DNR Director Marc Miller, Gov. Pat Quinn and Secretary of State Jesse White. A hearing is scheduled for next Tuesday, several days after the deadline for the rules to be submitted to White’s office for publication.
Among the allegations is that the DNR didn’t consider scientific studies in its first rules notice, denying the public a chance to address the specific information the agency relied upon to draft the rules. It also claims there was no agency representative available to answer residents’ questions at public hearings, and that some were denied admission to or a chance to speak at the meetings.
Messages left with a DNR spokesman and industry officials on Wednesday were not immediately returned.
“We want a declaration from the court that the DNR failed to follow procedural requirements under law,” said Natalie Laczek, one of three attorneys representing the residents. “If IDNR cannot follow requirements in rulemaking, how is it going to be able to regulate permits in the state?”
One of the plaintiffs, Johnson County resident Annette McMichael, said she does not want hydraulic fracturing, or “fracking,” to begin until more scientific studies are done to determine if fracking is safe in an area of Illinois where earthquakes are known to occur, and wants the court to order the DNR to redo the rulemaking process.
Fracking generally uses a mixture of water, chemicals and sand to crack rock formations deep underground and release trapped oil and gas.
Opponents of the process fear it will cause air and water pollution and health problems. Industry and other supporters contend the method is safe and will create badly needed jobs in southern Illinois.
The state’s regulations were hailed as among the toughest in the nation when they were signed into law by Gov. Pat Quinn last year after lawmakers, industry and some environmental groups worked out a compromise.
But the issue became contentious as the DNR began writing the rules to implement the law. A legislative panel last week approved the rules, clearing the way for companies to register and apply for permits.
Environmentalists complained that they were not able to see the amended rules before they were published. Miller, the DNR director, has said key changes requested by environmentalists remain in place.
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