Research & Commentary: Illinois Hydraulic Fracturing Moratorium

Published January 9, 2013

With the Illinois legislature back in session, representatives of the oil and gas industry and environmental activists are directing their attention to Senate Bill 3280, an amendment to the Oil and Gas Act currently pending in the House Rules Committee.

The legislation would impose regulations on the process of hydraulic fracturing, which has led to a boom in oil and natural gas production in the United States. Opponents of shale development advocate a moratorium on hydraulic fracturing because they believe the process, also known as “fracking,” threatens public health through potential contamination of drinking water supplies.

But according to data collected from the Interstate Oil & Gas Compact Commission, a government agency, between 30,000 and 50,000 wells have been “fracked” in Illinois since the 1950s and no harm to groundwater has ever been recorded. Several other state and federal regulators have confirmed that the fracking process has never contaminated anyone’s water.

A report from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology explains why this is so: “[T]here is substantial vertical separation between the freshwater aquifers and the fracture zones in the major shale plays. The shallow layers are protected from injected fluid by a number of layers of casing and cement—and as a practical matter fracturing operations cannot proceed if these layers of protection are not fully functional.”

A statewide moratorium on fracking would impose an unnecessary burden on the development of a rich natural resource—and cost the state plenty. Dr. David Loomis, professor of economics at Illinois State University and director of the Center for Renewable Energy, found allowing fracking to take place in the state would mean “a minimum of 1,000 jobs would be created or supported each year with the potential of 47,000 jobs annually if the highest scenario is realized.” With 8.8 percent unemployment and a desperate need for revenue, Illinois cannot afford to bypass this breakthrough technology, especially given fracking’s remarkably safe track record.

The following documents provide additional information about the safety and benefits of hydraulic fracturing.


Ten Principles of Energy Policy
Heartland Institute President Joseph Bast outlines the ten most important principles for policymakers confronting energy issues, providing guidance to help withstand ongoing changes in markets, technology, and policies adopted in other states, supported by a thorough bibliography.

DEQ on Fracking—’Not a Single Incident in 60 Years and 12,000 Wells’
Brad Wurfel, a scientist and communications director for Michigan’s Department of Environmental Quality, tells the Rockford Squire that claims about dangers of hydraulic fracturing have been exaggerated. 

State Regulators on Hydraulic Fracturing
The research and public outreach campaign Energy in Depth collected testimonials from numerous state regulators from all over the country, each of whom concluded the hyped-up claims of environmental or public health risks from hydraulic fracturing were unsupported. 

The Illinois Oil and Gas Act
This document provides the nearly 200 pages of state regulations implemented by the Illinois Department of Natural Resources that oil and gas producers must comply with, in addition to the onerous federal regulations also in place. 

Facts, Not Fear, Needed in Fracking Debate
Kyna Legner pens an op-ed in The Southern Illinoisan addressing claims of water contamination, chemical disclosure, and water use, which have been at the forefront of sensational claims coming from activist opponents of hydraulic fracturing. 

Illinois State Progress—Hydraulic Fracturing
Statistics collected from the Interstate Oil & Gas Compact Commission, a multistate government agency, show not one of the 30,000 to 50,000 wells fracked over a span of more than 60 years in Illinois has resulted in any recorded harm to groundwater. 

The Future of Natural Gas
An interdisciplinary report published by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology examines the role of natural gas in meeting future demand in a carbon-constrained economy. The report comments on hydraulic fracturing as a means of extracting energy from shale, and it states groundwater contamination from fracking is impossible because of the deep layers of impermeable rock and multiple vertical layers of steel casing and cement.

The Potential Economic Impact of New Albany Gas on the Illinois Economy
Dr. David Loomis, a professor of economics at Illinois State University and director of the Center for Renewable Energy, provides the first comprehensive look at how many Illinois jobs would be created through use of hydraulic fracturing and horizontal drilling technologies. Shale in southern Illinois’ New Albany formation could grow the state economy by $9 billion and create more than 45,000 jobs, he concludes.


Nothing in this Research & Commentary is intended to influence the passage of legislation, and it does not necessarily represent the views of The Heartland Institute. For further information on this and other topics, visit the Environment & Climate News Web site at, The Heartland Institute’s Web site at, and PolicyBot, Heartland’s free online research database, at

If you have any questions about this issue or The Heartland Institute, contact Heartland Institute Policy Analyst Taylor Smith at [email protected] or 312/377-4000.