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Anti-Fracking Group Wants Local Control on Drilling

By Hilary LeHew By Benjy Jeffords

Story Created: Jan 24, 2013 at 6:09 PM CST

Story Updated: Jan 24, 2013 at 6:56 PM CST

WSIL — A group is fighting for local control of fracking as lawmakers consider statewide regulations.

Rep. John Bradley is in the process of negotiating a bill that would set state rules for hydraulic fracturing, but he faces a fight from an anti-fracking group. They believe regulation of the drilling process should be left up to local residents.

Some county boards in our region have already weighed in on fracking in their communities, but Bradley said it’s not up to them. He said the state of Illinois has been regulating oil and gas companies for centuries and will continue to do so with everyone’s voices in mind.

Chuck Paprocki of Carbondale is part of a group called SAFE, or Southern Illinoisan’s Against Fracturing our Environment.

“We’re concerned about what we’ve seen in other states, the consequences of fracking,” Paprocki said,

Fracking is the process of pumping water and chemicals deep underground to extract natural gas. Oil and gas companies have been buying up the mineral rights on farms across Southern Illinois to begin drilling, but legislators like Bradley want to make sure it’s done safely and responsibly.

“This is a Southern Illinois resource which could be a potential boom for our area, and as long as we protect our drinking water and the place where we live, then we ought to see if this is gonna work,” he explained.

Bradley is currently working with the industry, regulators and lawmakers to come up with a proactive fracking bill. But Paprocki said the measure takes power away from local officials.

“I think it would be criminal actually, to have local people bare the brunt the this industry without any say,” he said.

Some counties have already taken a position on fracking. In August the Jackson County Board chose to support a state moratorium. Meanwhile, White County leaders have welcomed the drilling.

“We believe that that’s their decision to make,” said Paprocki, “Not a department at the state level making arbitrary decisions.”

SAFE has started a petition to put a hold on fracking to allow more research and study of the process. Bradley insists everyone is doing their best to make a statewide decision on the matter.

“We take into account the concerns and the voices of local folks as we try to craft legislation, and as I said, this is an inclusive process. The people of Southern Illinois are well represented in the room on all sides,” Bradley said.

SAFE encourages anyone against fracking to call their local legislator and show support for a moratorium. If the moratorium passes, it would put a stop to fracking for two years.

Bradley says they’re still in negotiations with groups including the EPA and the oil and gas companies, but he hopes to have the bill ready as soon as next month.

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