SPRINGFIELD — About a dozen opponents of hydraulic fracturing Friday marked the final day of a public comment period on the state's new fracking rules by renewing their call for a complete ban on the controversial oil and gas drilling procedure.
Members of environmental groups such as Frack Free Illinois and Shawnee Hills Hollers dropped off copies of anti-fracking petitions at Gov. Pat Quinn's office and at the offices of the Illinois Department of Natural Resources.
At a news conference at DNR headquarters, Georgia de la Garza of West Frankfort called on state regulators to consider the thousands of comments made by anti-fracking forces when they review the proposed rules in the coming weeks.
In the end, however, she and other opponents said they won't be happy until they block the process from happening altogether.
"We will not stop asking for a ban on fracking," de la Garza said.
The rally comes as supporters of hydraulic fracturing say drilling for gas and oil in the eastern and southern parts of the state could bring tens of thousands of jobs to economically depressed areas.
Lawmakers signed off on a series of regulations last spring described as among the most comprehensive in the nation.
Opponents, however, say the new law is weak when it comes to safeguarding against major environmental problems, ranging from poisoning water supplies to triggering earthquakes.
During Friday's rally, the environmental groups submitted petitions signed by 1,700 people calling on Quinn to delay the rule-making process. They want the Democrat from Chicago to convene a new committee to oversee the rewriting of the rules.
Tabitha Tripp, who lives in Union County, said she is worried about fracking and fracking-related activities affecting the well where she gets her water.
"A ban is the only way to protect Illinois and its environment," Tripp said.
As it stands, it could be months before a special legislative panel signs off on the state's new rules.
DNR spokesman Chris McCloud did not have a timetable for how long that would take.
The process first calls for DNR to sort through public comments collected over the past 50 days to determine if a preliminary set of fracking rules needs to be altered.
Once the agency submits the rules to a special 12-member panel o f lawmakers, a new clock begins ticking.
The panel, known as the Joint Committee on Administrative Rules, has until November 2014 to act on the proposed regulations.