A bill to regulate horizontal hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, in Illinois was delayed in House Committee Thursday after the bill's sponsor added an amendment that would require energy companies to hire state-licensed water-well contractors. The amendment also would require unionized well water contractors on job sites until contractors have received licensure.
Bill sponsor Rep. John Bradley reportedly added the amendment at the behest of a labor management organization representing Countryside, Ill.-based Operating Engineers Local 150 union. A Local 150 spokesman told reporters Thursday the amendment is intended to ensure aquifiers aren't contaminated during fracking.
While Bill HB2615, the Illinois Hydraulic Fracturing Regulatory Act, was expected to pass later this year, a group of labor, construction and business interests withdrew support for it Thursday after the amendment was added.
Brad Richards, executive vice president of the Illinois Oil and Gas Association, expressed concern the amendment could delay fracking in the state for a year, prompting drillers to look elsewhere.
The amendment would require contractors to undergo extensive training, including classes and an exam, before receiving licensure. It also would provide regulators three years to develop provisions for the training program.
Other provisions of the bill would hold oil and gas companies liable for water contamination resulting from drilling. Companies would be required test water both before and after drilling.
Though Illinois House Speaker Michael Madigan has supported a statewide moratorium on fracking, Bill HB2615 has drawn widespread support from state lawmakers. Studies indicate high-volume gas and oil drilling could create as many as 40,000 jobs in southern Illinois. Energy companies have expressed interest in the New Albany Shale in the southern region of the state.