Rose legislation cracking down on Peoples Gas clears first Senate hurdle

A package of legislation sponsored by State Sen. Chapin Rose to strengthen oversight of natural gas storage sites below ground, and strengthen notice requirements if a natural gas leak occurred below ground in a storage facility, passed a Senate Committee April 12. 

Rose’s measures come after more threats to the Mahomet Aquifer, the primary source of drinking water for 500,000 Central Illinois residents, were found in late 2016. An underground natural gas leak was discovered in a natural gas storage facility owned and operated by Peoples Gas, contaminating the water of several rural Champaign County residents. 

Rose’s Senate Bill 3548 requires that a company operating a natural gas storage facility that is below ground and above a U.S. Environmental Protection Agency-designated sole source aquifer, in this case the Mahomet Aquifer, must notify the public immediately if a leak is detected. This includes area residents, public officials, emergency management personnel, and water authorities.  

“In the case of the Peoples Gas leak, area residents and local governments only found out about the leak by accident, and it took months for them to find out,” Rose said. “When you’re talking about the health and well-being of hundreds of thousands of residents, these notifications must be made immediately. Anything short of that is unacceptable. But more importantly, who wants to deal with a leak? We need inspections to prevent leaks from ever occurring in the first place.” 

Therefore, Rose’s Senate Bill 3549 would require the Illinois Department of Natural Resources (IDNR) to annually inspect all natural gas storage facilities above the Mahomet Aquifer. These inspections would be paid for by the companies, not taxpayers. 

“This is common-sense legislation,” Rose said. “The point is to stop problems before they occur.” 

Rose is also sponsoring a resolution in the Senate requiring IDNR to review its current practices regarding oil and gas drilling and make recommendations to the legislature for additional changes. 

Rose is a member of the Mahomet Aquifer Task Force and has worked with local groups and organizations for more than a decade to protect the Mahomet Aquifer. He was one of the first local officials to go on record opposing the housing of dangerous PCB wastes in landfills on top of the Aquifer. He recently successfully led the fight to legislatively ban other toxic chemicals from being stored in landfills above the Mahomet Aquifer by requiring scientific sampling of non-hazardous wastes to make sure that toxic substances aren’t also coming into landfills sitting above an aquifer. He has also spoken at numerous conferences and meetings on this topic.

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