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E-Splash June 2013 - Legislative Report
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Illinois Section AWWA - E-Splash - June 2013

 


Legislative News
Terry Steczo and Maureen Mulhall

Will Fracking Legislation Finally Be Approved?

At one time it looked like it was just a matter of time before legislation to set guidelines for hydraulic fracturing would be approved and on its way to the Governor for his signature. But, as often happens in the legislature, the wheels came off and the plan is now apparently stuck in neutral. But tracking any proposal in the General Assembly is like watching the weather in Chicago, wait ten minutes and it will change.

In mid-March, just as the euphoria of a tentative fracking deal was subsiding, an unanticipated amendment was filed to the bill that not only dampened spirits but could threaten the ultimate outcome. After almost two years of negotiations among business, legislators, the Attorney General, environmental and industry groups an agreement on fracking legislation was announced early last week. The provisions of the agreement are:

  • A requirement that chemical-laced water used in fracking must be stored in tanks, not open pits;
  • Restrictions on venting and flaring of natural gas;
  • A requirement that chemicals be disclosed before fracking begins;
  • A requirement that water be tested before, during and after fracking;
  • The right for citizens to petition for public hearings regarding proposed permits and to be able to appeal permits;
  • An allowance for the State to deny a permit during drought conditions;
  • A requirement that a public website list and post drilling applications;
  • The presumption that oil and gas drillers are liable for contamination near fracking operations unless proven otherwise; and
  • A requirement for a review process for investigating complaints; and
  • A 3% per barrel extraction fee for the first two years of operation that could expand to 6% after the initial two-year period depending on a well’s average monthly production.

The apparent problem that arose was a provision that would provide strict licensing requirements on contractors. Fracking contractors contend that this would add time and money to their operations, especially at the outset, and have indicated that this provision negates the prior agreement that was reached among most of a vast majority of the stakeholders.

May is a "magical” month in the General Assembly, where proposals vanish into thin air and others come to life out of nowhere, while new life can be breathed into legislation that is lying dormant. And "new life” is what is expected by many to be what ultimately occurs with the fracking legislation before the General Assembly adjourns on May 31.

Two proposals were introduced this session to place a moratorium on fracking; and, for the most part, they are dead. That doesn’t mean they can’t be revived in a moment; but, even as moratorium advocates are working tirelessly every day in Springfield, the prevailing thought is that the something similar to the broad agreement that was reached by business, legislators, the Attorney General, environmental and industry groups will ultimately pass before the May 31 gavel comes down. Downstate Illinois desperately wants the jobs, economic development and revenues that will be derived from these operations, and the State does too.

The unanticipated amendment attempts to impose strict licensing requirements on contractors who have indicated that the added time and costs could place the entire deal in jeopardy. There is still great optimism that a final deal will be worked out prior to the May 31 adjournment.

On the other side of the coin, two bills have been introduced that call for a two-year moratorium on fracking. Both of those bills have been stalled in the General Assembly because of the progress made on fracking requirements.

A Legislative Scorecard

By the time this issue of SPLASH is published, the legislative session will be just approaching, or will just have completed, its spring session. So, what happens to those thousands of bills that are introduced every year? How many of them actually move through the process?

At the beginning of every session, legislators are filled with vim and vigor and are brimming with ideas that they think of themselves, are given by others, or are responses to news items that they feel warrant legislative attention. And every year, notwithstanding the thousands of bills introduced, the average number of proposals that reach the Governor’s desk hovers at about 10%.

Late April marked the halfway point through the legislative process because the deadlines for acting on bills introduced in the chamber of origin were reached. In the past, somewhere around 10% of all legislative initiatives were sent to the Governor for consideration. So, how do those numbers look this year?

In the Senate, for instance, there were a total of 2,579 bills introduced this session. How many passed over to the House as of their 3rd Reading deadline? 329, or 12.65%. The House numbers were similar. Of 3,624 introductions, 443, or 12.3% were approved. When you take into consideration that some of the bills that passed from one chamber to the other were duplicates and only one of those will be sent to the Governor, that some others were shell bills that may or may not be utilized for anything, and that others may not fare well in chamber number two, the final result will probably be close to that 10% mark once again.

One reason for the small number of bills that pass is, simply, there is a finite amount of time that each chamber has to devote to hearing bills. It might be a different story if the legislature was a full-time body and devoted more time to discussing issues. But the Illinois Constitution embraces the "citizen-legislator” and session dates and rules reflect that, and so do the number of proposals that are able to receive legislative attention.

A second reason is that not every bill is in shape to become law on the date of introduction. Some proposals are complex and need a wealth of conversation, debate and amendment before they are ready for prime time. Legislators will often spend as much time as necessary to try to find agreement among all issue stakeholders if an issue is important to them. When (or if) an agreement occurs then that legislation is able to take its place among the lucky 10%.

Thirdly, legislators my introduce legislation solely at the request of a constituent, or to point out a state or local problem in order to create discussion or get the attention of a state agency.

Legislators also have an option of extending deadlines for their proposals to give them a bit more time to try to put together compromise language. Some of these bills will ultimately make it through the process in the next few weeks, but most will not.

There are some that look at the potential of 600-700 new laws each year and say it’s way too much. Others think that the legislature should do more. The reality is that with the time that they have available to them and the difficult of moving legislation through the process, the numerical outcome is probably just right.


Legislative Reports

More InfoHide Info ]
The Water Utility Council and our legislative representatives present reports on a regular basis of the status of legislation in Illinois and on a National scale.
Item Name Posted By Date Posted
Clean Water Initiative Fact Sheet PDF (315.51 KB) Administration 10/31/2012

Splash

Item Name Posted By Date Posted
Splash Summer 2015 PDF (8.83 MB)  more ] Administration 7/6/2015
SPLASH ADVERTISING_2015 PDF (2.12 MB) Administration 11/18/2014
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