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Couple caught up in fracking debate | Williamson County, IL

A rural Williamson County couple was surprised to learn that the rights they own for oil and gas on their property may not protect them from the possibility of fracking on their land.

Joy and David Ramsey recently discovered that despite owning the gas and oil rights on their 44 acres of land east of Marion, they could be forced into a lease that would allow high-volume hydraulic fracturing on their property.

After turning down leasing agents who approached them about leasing their rights, the couple called the oil and gas division of the Illinois Department of Natural Resources to check on the issue.

What they heard shocked them, Joy Ramsey said.

“The state says we can be be forced to lease our rights,” she said. “We own our gas and oil rights, but apparently don’t have any rights. It doesn’t make any sense.”

According to the Illinois Oil and Gas Act, unwanted leases can result under certain circumstances.

Drilling occurs in units, which vary in size but are usually between 10 and 40 acres. Drilling permit applicants need to secure the rights for all the property within the unit.

Because units can be spread across separately owned interests, if all leaseholders agree, they may integrate their interests and develop their lands as a drilling unit. However, if leaseholders can’t agree to integration within the unit, a hearing could be set in the matter.

The hearing would determine whether the unit is integrated.

“There is a process in the law for settling this kind of dispute,” said IDNR spokesman Chris McCloud.

Ramsey, an opponent of fracking, provided videotaped testimony on her family’s experience to Southern Illinoisans Against Fracturing Our Environment, or SAFE, a grassroots organization working toward a moratorium to keep fracking out of the state.

The testimony is online and has been provided to legislators.

beckymalk@gmail.com 618-927-5633

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