CHICAGO (AP) — Illinois lawmakers signed off Thursday on long-awaited rules regulating high-volume oil and gas drilling, clearing the way for companies to get "fracking" permits and unleash what they hope will be an energy boom in the southern part of the state.
But a number of key details were not disclosed including how the state plans to fund the hiring of new workers to oversee the practice, which uses high-pressure mixtures to crack open rocks and release trapped oil and gas.
The delay in the fracking rules — which took more than a year for the state Department of Natural Resources to write and which were revised by a legislative committee — prompted complaints from industry that energy development would suffer.
The final rules must be submitted to the Secretary of State to be published by Nov. 15.
The secretive approval process set off alarm bells with environmental activists, who say they have no idea what changes were made to the draft of regulations released by the department in late August.
"We are sure many changes benefiting industry have been made behind closed doors without scientific review," said Annette McMichael, spokeswoman for Southern Illinoisans Against Fracturing our Environment.
Lawmakers who approved the rules unanimously and without discussion, expressed confidence that concerns raised in 30,000 public comments had been addressed.
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