The economic benefits of natural gas were discussed from both a national and state perspective during the annual Grundy Economic Development Council Legislative Breakfast Monday morning.
The discussion began when Moderator Pete Brummel, senior vice president of Grundy Bank, asked Matt Gross, a member of U.S. Congressman Adam Kinzinger’s staff, the congressman’s take on the exportation of natural gas.
“Exploration for energy sources in the United States is being stifled due to over-regulation, and slow-walking by the federal government,” said Gross on behalf of Kinzinger (R-Channahon), who was in Turkey and, as a result, unavailable to attend the annual session in person.
“Energy independence strengthens our energy security, which in turn strengthens our national security.”
If we increase domestic energy production, we give our manufacturing sector a chance to have a resurgence through lowering their costs,” he continued.
Kinzinger has some concerns with exporting fuels, Gross added, such as making sure prices are not going to skyrocket.
The state officials present commented on pending fracking legislation regarding drilling for natural gas.
“Hydraulic fracturing, or ‘fracking,’ produces fractures in the rock formation that stimulate the flow of natural gas or oil, increasing the volumes that can be recovered,” according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency website. “Fractures are created by pumping large quantities of fluids at high pressure down a wellbore and into the target rock formation.”
The sand needed for this process is found only in La Salle County and Wisconsin, said Rezin.
“Fracking to me is probably the biggest thing our state is facing right now,” said state Rep. Pam Roth (R-Morris). “We sat here for how many minutes now and talked about taxes, taxes, taxes? This is revenue. Billions of dollars of revenue to an economy downstate that is suffering.”
Roth said there is a potential for 40,000 jobs. One amendment to the bill, she said, is requiring the companies who do the fracking to be union, although the three companies working with the state are non-union.
There is an agreed upon bill out there between industry and the environmentalists. If it passes, the state would have the toughest regulations in the country. There are concerns, including water contimination, that stem the regulations.
“The question becomes, are we going to allow it to slip away from us and have Kentucky or someone else tap into those wells that are out there or are we going to embrace it and have the toughest regulations out there?” Roth asked.
She said she believes the state will take action on this by the end of this year.
State Sen. Sue Rezin (R-Morris) said in her experience if you ever have a bill where industry and the environmentalists agree, it is amazing. This is still being negotiated on the House side and she has sat in on several of the meetings.
“We haven’t seen the details over in the Senate yet, but we will have the strongest regulation to protect the environment . . . at the end of the day this is potentially a gold rush for the state,” said Rezin.
There are companies who currently have permits on every farm in southern Illinois waiting for this piece of legislation to pass and then will go in immediately and start drilling to see if they can find oil and then natural gas as a byproduct.
Also in attendance were state Sen. Toi Hutchinson (D-Olympia Fields) and state Rep. Kate Cloonen (D-Kankakee), who represent the southeastern portion of Grundy County.