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Environmentalists, Business Groups Reach Deal On Fracking In Illinois

Brian Mackey/Illinois Public Radio

Brian Mackey contributed reporting from Springfield, Ill.

It was an odd sight at the Illinois state Capitol today - supporters of the oil and gas industry sharing a podium with environmental activists.

The two sides were announcing an agreement on legislation that would regulate the oil and gas extraction process known as hydraulic fracturing, or "fracking." It's thought that the New Albany shale, in southeastern Illinois, could become a significant source of fossil fuels.

Fracking in Illinois is unavoidable, said Jack Darin with the state's chapter of the Sierra Club. So the organization found it better to compromise on new rules than do nothing.

"So for people who have heard stories, and have concerns about fracking and what it might mean for their drinking water and the places they love, we share those concerns," Darin said. "But with this bill, which in many respects is the strongest of any state in the country, our communities and you will be much, much safer."

Both sides say they still have to work out details, like making sure the state can afford to enforce the proposed regulations. And it still must clear the state House and Senate and get the signature of Gov. Pat Quinn. Its sponsor, Rep. John Bradley of southern Illinois, hopes fracking will be underway by the end of the year.