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Fracking Battle Continues to Brew

ALTO PASS, Il.—The battle lines are being drawn.  One side says fracking could create 47 thousand jobs just in Illinois, most of those in the south, and nearly 10 billion dollars. But another group says it’s not worth the risk to the environment and banned hydraulic fracturing from their village. Fracking, for short, is a new technology used to drill and extract natural gas reserves from rock beneath the surface called shale. While energy companies say it’s safe, opponents fear it could contaminate ground water and worry about the chemicals used during the process. That’s why leaders in the Village of Alto Pass passed officially banned fracking this week. Alto Pass leaders unanimously signed an ordinance because they want to be environmentally friendly trend setters, and hope other counties and cities follow. But one attorney told Local 6 he’s ready to represent property owners who feel like the government’s getting in the way of their right to lease or sell mineral rights.

Visit the tiny village of Alto Pass, Illinois and you’ll find vineyards, a handful of shops, and a certain small town charm. But there’s one thing village trustees hope you’ll never see; fracking.

Joel Murray and every other village trustee passed an ordinance banning fracking.

“Environmentally it just scares me to death,” Murray said.

“Murray said he signed the ordinance because he’s worried about groundwater contamination, something that knows no village limits.  That’s why he hopes other cities and counties follow suit.

“It’s all to grab headlines for the anti-fracking and environmental community that’s uninformed about it,” Attorney Ronald Osman said.

He believes fracking is safe, but says regardless of anyone’s opinion, according to Illinois law municipalities can regulate fracking but can’t ban it, and counties can’t do anything.

“The status of the law today is pretty clear that counties do not have that authority,” Osman said.

Osman said he’d represent landowners who couldn’t sell mineral rights because of ordinance like this one.

“It would be a very easy case because the law is settled,” Osman said.

But Murray said he’s not worried about a lawsuit, and is only concerned with protecting his people.

“It’s just not worth it,” Murray said.

Murray said he and others in the village know their ban won’t stop fracking across Southern Illinois, but they hope it sends a message to lawmakers in Springfield that local governments are concerned.

They also want the state to at least heavily regulate fracking, and hold energy companies accountable if environmental mistakes are made. Currently there is a bill in Illinois, Senate Bill 3280 that regulates fracking across the state.

The attorney said just because someone owns the property doesn’t mean they own the mineral rights. In many cases previous property owners, could have sold or leased the rights to

oil companies and then the sold the surface to you.

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