The oil and gas industry is drooling over carbon-rich shale formations in the Land of Lincoln. In the oil and gas industry’s quest to tap resources hidden in shale formations throughout the nation, companies involved in the fracking movement are focussing their attention on the next big hot spot, moving attention away from North Dakota and Texas and looking ahead to the future of the industry. That future, at this point, is seen in Illinois, where the state just instituted a set of regulations that opened doors to an industry eager to extract oil and gas from the Land of Lincoln. Drilling for oil and gas in Illinois is nothing new, but the technology behind fracking has opened the doors to a new source of oil and gas previously thought to be out of reach. In the 1950s and 1960s, Illinois was a hot spot for U.S. oil production, resulting in the extraction of more than 80 million barrels each year, according to the state’s Department of Natural Resources.
The new rush garnered the attention of the oil industry, eager to eat up a piece of the newly discovered pie. Even before regulations were issued by the state legislature, oil and gas companies had spent $250 million to lease land rich with shale formations — and the oil and gas within. One area targeted by the oil industry before regulations were passed was White County, an area experts claim could produce more shale oil than what’s currently being extracted from Texas’ Eagle shale formation, now considered to be the hot spot for the national fracking campaign. The formation in White County, Ill. is known as the New Albany shale formation. Illinois’ Campbell Energy has already filed the permits to construct one well in White County, with estimates that one well could produce 204 barrels of oil per day, according to the Chicago Tribune. “If the New Albany is half as good as the Eagle Ford, we’re going to be looking at something truly amazing for southern Illinois,” Steve Everley, a spokesperson for Energy in Depth told the Chicago Tribune.
The industry’s move into Illinois hasn’t come without resistance from area residents. While some, particularly those in low-income communities of Southern Illinois, have welcomed the opportunity for employment, others have cautioned that regulations don’t protect residents from possibly groundwater contamination. In June, after regulations were passed, Illinois residents vowed disobedience in the face of an industry that promised to move into the state’s southern communities. The regulations were promoted by legislators as a compromise between environmental organizations and the oil and gas industry. However, those in the fight against the fracking movement rejected the measures, claiming “trade secret” loopholes allowed companies to use unknown carcinogenic chemicals in fracking wells without disclosing this to an operation’s neighbors. “We reject the legitimacy of Illinois’ fracking bill, which was the result of closed-door negotiations between industry representatives and comprise-oriented environmental organizations,” Southern Illinois Against Fracking our Environment (SAFE) told Mint Press News in a June email. “Responsible only to their funders and members, these environmental groups do not represent nor are they empowered to represent on our behalf.”