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Fracking moratorium finds friendly audience in Carbondale

CARBONDALE — Continued efforts toward a statewide moratorium on high-volume hydraulic fracturing, known as fracking, found a friendly audience Wednesday in Carbondale.

Hundreds carrying anti-fracking signs were met with dozens of horn honks of approval during an informational picket near the city’s town square. Energized community members then met for more than two hours during a general assembly convened at the city’s civic center by Southern Illinoisans Against Fracturing Our Environment, or SAFE, a grassroots organization determined to keep large-scale fracking out of the region.

A friendly and energized crowd receive honks of approval from passing cars.

Although none were present Wednesday, industry representatives have in the past pointed to job growth and no environmental disasters as positives of fracking.

“Big oil is telling us a big lie,” said Richard Fedder, a member of SAFE.

Fedder said lax federal and non-existent state regulations give the industry a free pass to pollute the environment with a toxic cocktail of heavy metals and other poisons. He pointed to recent reports from Pennsylvania, Ohio, Colorado and Wyoming that he said showed the process of injecting high-pressure, chemical and sand-laced water into the ground to free natural gas from shale leads to water contamination.

Lawyer Penni Livingston backed up Fedder’s claim about the problems of regulation, saying the Illinois Department of Natural Resources was ill-equipped to deal with fracking.

“This is the 40th anniversary of the Clean Water Act and we can’t enforce it,” she said.

SAFE’s Lynn Waters said her group has on its website a 128-page Illinois Environmental Protection Agency report of fracking-related contamination in the state and urged attendees to see for themselves whether the process was safe.

Lynn Waters tells the audience SAFE’s website contains a 128 page report on contamination from fracking related activities in Illinois.

Fedder said plentiful natural gas wells, as many as 16 per square mile, would suck up a trillion gallons of fresh water — enough to fill 18 bodies the size of Rend Lake — over Southern Illinois’ 2,300 square miles of drillable shale.

Rich Fedder cautions the audience against signing oil and gas leases. “Think twice.”

Fedder cautioned landowners against signing mineral rights leases for their properties because oil companies generally have agreements that limit their liability to $5,000.

“Big oil takes the profits, but takes no responsibility,” he said.

Tabitha Tripp, a SAFE member from Johnson County, said she has already seen ground and water contamination in White County, a natural gas rich area of Southern Illinois.

“What are you willing to do, people?” she asked.

Jackson County Board members Julie Peterson and John Rendleman spoke about the board’s support of a statewide moratorium. Peterson said she wanted to see a referendum to ban the process on the next election ballot.

“I don’t think the industry is a safe industry,” Peterson said.

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