Shale In Illinois Means Jobs, Not Quakes

Earlier this year, the Illinois legislature passed legislation to regulate hydraulic fracturing with strong bipartisan support – a measure that Governor Quinn promptly signed into law. Since then, a number of news outlets have asked the question: what can Illinois expect now?

For example, the Southern Illinoisan opened a recent article with this question: “If high-volume hydraulic fracturing comes to Southern Illinois, does it bring with it an increased risk for earthquakes?”

Art McGarr of the United States Geological Survey (USGS) had a simple and reassuring answer:

Fracking doesn’t tend to cause earthquakes that are felt…Hundreds of (fracking treatments) have been done to date, with a history of six to eight years, and there have been only three reports of earthquakes large enough to be felt at the surface.”

Of course, Mr. McGarr isn’t the only person at USGS to make this claim.  As USGS scientist Bill Ellsworth recently said, “We find no evidence that [hydraulic fracturing] is related to the occurrence of earthquakes that people are feeling. We think that it’s more intimately connected to the wastewater disposal.” Ellsworth has also said, “We don’t see any connection between fracking and earthquakes of any concern to society.”

Yet, as we’ve explained before, earthquakes have occurred in only a very small fraction of cases due to waste water disposal.  When asked to clarify, McGarr answered that he “‘wouldn’t lose any sleep” over the possibility of a triggered earthquake in Southern Illinois. “I wouldn’t be too concerned about it as long as there is regulatory oversight and knowing the agencies in Illinois, there will be and in an environmentally sensitive way,” McGarr added.

Sounds like Illinois can indeed rest easy on that one!

So, what will hydraulic fracturing actually bring to Illinois? As a local NBC News affiliate recently reported, the Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity (DCEO) visited communities in Ohio with similar geography and demographics to find out:

Bill Stanhouse with the DCEO explained to a crowd that the first thing they noticed was an increase in truck traffic and stress on infrastructure. But he says with the added traffic comes economic stimulation. He says in Ohio, hotels, restaurants and shops all experienced an increase in sales.

“The Ace Hardware store owner says she has seen double digit increases in sales this past year, where most Ace Hardware stores are seeing somewhere between three and eight at the best,” said Stanhouse…

…Stanhouse says the researched area in Ohio experienced a 100% increase in sales tax after allowing fracking.

A local landowner, Steve Launius, said he was sold on a pretty simple metric: “It’s jobs, jobs, jobs and that’s something we desperately need here,” he said. According to NBC News, Launius believes “the added revenue in Illinois’ small towns will make up for the added stress on infrastructure.”

So no earthquakes, a surge in new tax revenue, and jobs, jobs, jobs?  Sounds like Illinois’ future, thanks to the prospect of responsible shale development, is heading towards solid ground.


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