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Anti-fracking protestors stage rally in Springfield

Posted Mar 04, 2013 @ 11:33 AM

Last update Mar 04, 2013 @ 10:12 PM

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While about 50 protesters held an anti-fracking rally outside Northfield Inn Suites and Conference Center on Monday, county commissioners meeting inside heard plans for legislation to regulate the practice in Illinois.

Illinois People’s Action organized the rally of landowners, clergy, environmental groups, community organizers and researchers who argue that fracking is a threat to land, air and water.

“I think the main goal for the General Assembly is to kill the bill,” said Johnson County landowner Annette McMichael.

Johnson County is in an area of southern Illinois considered most likely to yield natural gas through the practice of injecting high-pressure water and chemicals into underground rock formations.

McMichael, a member of Southern Illinoisans Against Fracturing Our Environment, said oil and gas companies already have signed leases throughout the county.

“Some of our group believe there should be a ban,” said McMichael, “and some of us believe there should be a moratorium so that studies could be done.”

Protesters were united in opposition to legislation outlined last month by business and environmental groups to regulate fracking in Illinois. Supporters, including some environmental groups, say the bill includes strong safeguards for protection of the environment, including water supplies.

Opponents, including those at the rally, said one of many flaws in the bill is the loss of local zoning control.

“The major reason is the loss of county control over fracking,” said William Rau, professor emeritus of industrial sociology at Illinois State University. “Under this law, the Department of Natural Resources can permit the location of fracking practically next door to a reservoir.”

Rau said fracking also threatens the air through release of methane and would damage farmland. He pointed out the southern Illinois region where leases already have been awarded is in an earthquake zone.

Representatives from the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency and DNR were among business, industry, environmental and regulatory officials scheduled to address the conference of the Illinois Association of County Board Members and Commissioners.

Executive director Kelly Murray said the association has not taken a position on fracking. But she said several county boards have passed resolutions in favor of the practice and the jobs that would be created, while others favor a moratorium and more study.

“These are the people who helped devise the legislation,” Murray said of the list of speakers scheduled for Monday’s conference. “We just want to make sure our members are educated.”

Tim Landis can be reached at 788-1536. Follow him at Twitter.com/timlandisSJR.

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