SPRINGFIELD -- For the second time in a week, a coalition of business and labor organizations called on Gov. Pat Quinn's administration to move faster in getting hydraulic fracturing rules in place.
The group, called "Growing Resources and Opportunity for the Workforce in Illinois," gathered in the Capitol to say the state is losing out on jobs and investment that go along with the controversial oil and gas extraction process.
"We'd like to think the Quinn administration could walk and chew gum at the same time, but given the length of time this rule-making process is taking, we're beginning to wonder," said Tom Wolf, executive director of the Illinois Chamber of Commerce's energy council.
A law laying out the fracking process was approved last year, but the Illinois Department of Natural Resources hasn't finished writing a final set of rules that would regulate the industry.
The administration says it remains on track to meet a statutory deadline to have a panel of lawmakers sign off on the rules by mid-November.
Business and labor groups say that's not fast enough.
"This should have happened by now. Employers have moved to Southern Illinois with the intention of starting hydraulic fracturing and providing good-paying jobs," said Michael Carrigan, president of the Illinois AFL-CIO. "They can't wait around much longer. They are losing on their investments and Illinois losing out on rich economic opportunity."
In addition to Thursday's press conference, the group sponsored a similar event in Marion Tuesday, hoping to bring attention to the lengthy delay.
Anti-fracking groups say the state should reverse course and ban fracking because of a number of environmental and safety issues that have arisen in other states.
Annette McMichael, spokeswoman for Southern Illinoisans Against Fracturing our Environment, also said the unions should be pushing for regulations that protect employees in the industry.
"Where in al of the conversation about bringing jobs to Illinois are concerns regarding the safety of the workers in the fracking zones," McMichael said Thursday "We'd like to see some discussion of the dangers inherent in fracking."
Along with getting the rules in place, DNR is in the process of hiring employees to assist in the regulation of fracking. Among the positions being advertised by the state are environmental permitting investigators, office associates and geographic information specialists.
"We expect to have about 15 staff on board by the end of July," DNR spokesman Chris Young said. "We are focused on hiring staff who will work in the permitting process first."
(Kurt Erickson can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 217-782-4043)