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This Hour: Latest Illinois news, sports, business and entertainment

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IDNR set to release fracking rules Friday

SPRINGFIELD, Ill. (AP) - The Illinois Department of Natural Resources is expected to release proposed rules for high-volume oil and gas drilling to a legislative panel.

Department officials say that rules to implement the state's year-old hydraulic fracturing law will be submitted to the Illinois Legislature's Joint Committee on Administrative Rules Friday.

The agency has come under increasing criticism from "fracking" supporters who had hoped that drilling could begin this summer. But a draft of the proposed rules released last year proved controversial, and was heavily criticized by environmentalists. The Department of Natural Resources has spent recent months sorting through more than 30,000 comments.

The panel has 45 days to approve the suggested rules, reject or change them. The department faces a November 15 deadline for the rules to be established.


Fracking industry officials donating to Rauner

SPRINGFIELD, Ill. (AP) - Oil producers, drilling companies and geologists frustrated with the slow process of implementing rules for high-volume oil and gas drilling are putting their money behind Republican candidate for governor Bruce Rauner (ROW'-nur).

The Springfield bureau of Lee Enterprises reports that the Winnetka businessman received nearly $240,000 from oil company officials looking to get the process up and running during a stop last month in southern Illinois.

The news comes as the state Department of Natural Resources is expected to submit proposed fracking rules to the Illinois Legislature's Joint Committee on Administrative Rules Friday.

The 12-member panel has 45 days to sign off on the suggested rules, change them or prohibit their filing.

The department faces a November 15 deadline for the rules to be established.


Ruling affects Illinois cancer cluster case

MCCOLLUM LAKE, Ill. (AP) - A Pennsylvania court ruling means a lawsuit can go forward accusing a chemical company of dumping toxins in Illinois, causing a deadly cancer cluster.

The Northwest Herald reports that the Pennsylvania Supreme Court on Monday declined to hear Rohm and Haas' appeal of a lower-court ruling overturning the 2011 dismissal of a lawsuit filed by a woman whose husband died of brain cancer. Rohm and Haas is based in Philadelphia. The alleged cancer cluster is in McCollum Lake in McHenry County.

Plaintiff Joanne Branham's case is one of more than 30 lawsuits accusing the company of polluting the area's air and groundwater with cancer-causing chemicals. Rohm and Haas denies pollutants reached or sickened residents.

The lawsuits have been filed since 2006.


Galesburg teachers end strike after contract deal

GALESBURG, Ill. (AP) - Galesburg teachers have ended a two-week strike after their union reached a tentative contract agreement with the board of education.

If union members vote to ratify the deal, students will be back in class on Friday.

The agreement was announced Thursday morning after a nearly 17-hour bargaining session between the Galesburg Education Association and District 205.

Luan Statham is the chief negotiator for the teachers. He says "the agreement is something that both sides can live with," adding that in any negotiations, "no one ever gets everything they ask for."

More than 600 employees participated in the strike, which began Aug. 13. About 4,500 students have missed classes.


Judge hears allegations against Chicago officer

CHICAGO (AP) - Prosecutors say a veteran Chicago police commander accused of misconduct chased a suspect into an abandoned home, stuck a gun down his throat and held a stun gun to his groin.

Assistant Cook County State's Attorney Lauren Freeman says DNA found on the gun is a match for the suspect who alleges he was abused during the January 2013 arrest.

Fifty-two-year-old Glenn Evans appeared in court Thursday on charges of aggravated battery and official misconduct. He was stripped of his police powers this week. He's been a Chicago police officer for 28 years.

Defense attorney Laura Morask denied the charges and said investigators have never come to Evans for his version of events.

The officer was released without having to post bond. He left the courtroom without speaking to reporters.


Suburban Chicago teacher charged with child porn

CHICAGO (AP) - A 51-year-old suburban Chicago middle school teacher has been arrested on federal charges of receiving child pornography and persuading a 16-year-old to produce pornographic images of himself.

Prosecutors say authorities arrested John Vastis at his Lakemoor home Thursday morning.

The U.S. Attorney's Office in Chicago says Vastis teaches at Meridian Middle School in Buffalo Grove. They say there's no allegation school students were targeted.

Vastis made an initial court appearance in Chicago later Thursday. He stood in flip-flops and a blue T-shirt, telling the judge he understood the charges. He didn't enter a plea.

Vastis is charged with producing and receiving child pornography. If convicted on all counts, Vastis faces a minimum 15-year prison term. The judge ordered Vastis held at least until his detention hearing Tuesday.


I-55 crash trucker charged with reckless homicide

JOLIET, Ill. (AP) - An Indiana truck driver involved in a crash that killed five people on an interstate southwest of Chicago has been charged with reckless homicide.

The indictment also alleges 51-year-old Francisco Espinal-Quiroz of Leesburg, Indiana, had physical conditions preventing him from driving safely, including a complete loss of vision in one eye.

The Will County state's attorney's office announced the new charges Thursday.

Earlier charges accused Espinal-Quiroz of falsifying entries in a logbook tracking the number of hours spent behind the wheel. He pleaded not guilty to those charges.

The crash happened July 22 on Interstate 55 near Channahon. The semi-truck struck several vehicles stopped in a construction zone.

His arraignment is Sept. 9.


S. Illinois woman accused of stealing from charity

EAST ST. LOUIS, Ill. (AP) - An Edwardsville woman is charged in federal court with stealing money from a charity fund meant to help families of fallen police officers.

The Belleville News-Democrat reports that 53-year-old Pamela Denise Robtoy is accused of stealing from the U.S. Marshals Survivors Benefit Fund and BackStoppers Inc. Authorities do not say how much money she is accused of taking.

Robtoy is charged with theft, embezzlement, wire fraud and making false statement to federal agents.

She pleaded not guilty Wednesday in East St. Louis federal court and is free on $10,000 bond. Robtoy is to go to trial Nov. 3.

An indictment says Robtoy transferred money into her personal account and used the money to pay personal expenses. She wrote in a financial statement that she has debt and medical bills.


Chicago schools getting $10M for Safe Passage

CHICAGO (AP) - The state of Illinois is giving Chicago Public Schools $10 million to expand a program aimed at providing safer routes to classes.

Gov. Pat Quinn's office announced the funding Thursday through the Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity. The money comes from bond proceeds through a state program that issues bonds for capital projects backed with state sales tax revenue

The nation's third-largest school district started Safe Passage in 2009 after concerns rose about the safety of students traveling to and from school. It was expanded last year after the district closed dozens of schools and parents expressed safety concerns.

The money will increase routes to the 93 schools already in the program and add 27 new schools.

The program puts trained employees along designated routes to monitor safety.


DNR: $1 licenses for Illinois seniors not ready

CRYSTAL LAKE, Ill. (AP) - The Illinois Department of Natural Resources says a system offering hunting and fishing licenses at a reduced price is not yet ready.

The Northwest Herald reports the department will refund people who have already purchased the cheaper licenses. Spokesman Chris Young says the system should be completed by the beginning of October.

Gov. Pat Quinn signed a bill in August allowing Illinois residents ages 75 and over to buy the recreational licenses at a reduced cost of $1, and some stamps at no cost. Full-priced fishing licenses cost $15, or $7.75 for those 65 and older. Hunting licenses are $12.50, or $6.50 for those 65 and over.

Rep. Jack Franks, who sponsored the bill, says he is disappointed the department wasn't better prepared.

Young says a refund form should be available on the department's website sometime this week.

Copyright 2014 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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