McLeansboro Times-Leader

Opinion

April 18, 2013

Fracking will boost our rural economy

In Washington, I chair the Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Environment and the Economy.

We have debates on how much regulation is too much, when does government harm the economy and are the strictest regulations that some propose even realistic?

"Fracking," as it has become known, is an oil and gas drilling technique that has been used for decades, including here in Illinois. Technology has just advanced to the point of making these natural resources that have been lurking underground now accessible.

I have met with people on both sides of the issue, but I'm always honest about my support for domestic production of oil and gas. Our increased use of fracking and new finds of natural gas supplies have moved our nation toward a more self-reliant point, but not completely.

However, we must continue to take advantage of these resources – and those of our friendly neighbors – if we are to maintain the low natural gas prices and moderate gasoline prices we currently are paying.

I am also a fervent proponent of allowing the states, who are really closest to the people affected, to be the final arbiter in environment rules and regulations. The staff of the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency and Illinois State Geological Survey are as educated as those at the U.S. EPA and probably have a better feel for the conditions on the ground here than someone in Washington, D.C.

I was pleased that a bipartisan agreement was introduced in the General Assembly that would regulate the fracking procedures in Illinois. Reps. (John) Bradley and (David) Reis both share constituents with me and are the lead sponsors in the Illinois House.

I urge Speaker (Michael) Madigan to bring their bill up for a vote without killer amendments attached. The state of Illinois, particularly rural areas that would benefit most from this legislation, would see an economic boost of potentially unprecedented levels. The whole state, and even the nation, will benefit as well.

Thousands of workers were on the job in Washington County during construction of the Prairie State Energy Campus. It is possible that the same could happen, not just at one site, but in many places from McLeansboro to Fairfield to Effingham.

I am not saying fracking should occur unregulated. The proposed legislation is perhaps the strictest of any state. But the industry still says they can make it work.

Let’s trust them to do right by their neighbors. Let’s pass a fracking regulations bill.

Let’s get more Illinoisans to work in the oil fields.

• John Shimkus represents the 15th Congressional District, which includes Hamilton County.

 

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