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Franklin County

Update February 21, 2013

Representative speaks out about fracking; County Board to attend seminar

  1. By Mona Sandefur

Feb. 21, 2013 9:23 am

  1. FRANKLIN COUNTY  –  Franklin County Board Chairman Randall Crocker reminded board members of the March 4 seminar on hydraulic fracturing being held in Springfield before members heard from opposition to proposed legislation.Chuck Paprocki, a member of Southern Illinoisans Against Fracturing Our Environment (SAFE), expressed concern about horizontal fracking saying it has been set up in other states with serious consequences.He asked the county board to have a say as he distributed copies of letters on the issues facing property owners and communities, and copies of letters to the Attorney General that addresses local control by counties.Paprocki said all language regarding local control by counties has been eliminated from a regulatory bill.

He encouraged county board members to write to the Attorney General to ensure that local control language would be put back in the bill.

Paprocki said the oil and gas industry is fighting to prevent local control. He asked members to consider the ramifications of industry as water is removed from the land where fracking occurs. Paprocki said this places extreme demand on local water supplies and negatively impacts local residents’ access to water.

He said SAFE has been shut out of meetings in Springfield and their voices are not being heard. Paprocki said with horizontal fracking there is no way to control the amount of water being used adding the wastewater will be placed in tanks and open pits. He said the agricultural industry would be competing for clean water.

Paprocki explained that hydraulic fracturing or fracking uses high-pressure mixtures of water, sand or gravel and chemicals to crack open thick rock formations and release trapped oil and gas.

Combined with horizontal drilling, it allows access of formerly out-of-reach deposits. Paprocki said the horizontal drilling can extend a mile or more under property adding the force has created earthquakes in other states.

He said the process contaminates the water supply, and the air from emissions of well sites, processing equipment, waste pits, diesel engines as the oil and gas are moved, and silica from frac sand.

“Historically, residents have gotten sick from exposure to these airborne substances around high-volume fracking and processing,” he said.

The Illinois Coalition for a Moratorium announced legislation last week, Senate Bill 1418, that seeks to impose a moratorium on the drilling process of high-volume hydraulic fracturing in Illinois, according to The Illinois Observer.

Paprocki posed questions about how property owners would be compensated for a loss in property values and if local medical services are prepared to handle the health effects from exposure to fracking chemicals and contaminants from the shale.

On the flip side, a pro-fracking group named GROW-IL (Growing Resources and Opportunity for the Workforce in Illinois) coalition says fracking is about jobs. According to The Illinois Observer, this group is piloted by the Illinois Manufacturers’ Association, Illinois AFL-CIO and the Illinois Petroleum Council.

Earlier: Franklin County Will Not pursue a Moratorium

A farm owner in Franklin County near Benton contacted Franklin County Board Members.  The farm has been in the family since 1860 and is precious to family members. Two nearby farmers have pursued contracts with an oil company. Initially, the Franklin County Board Chair was interested in the concerns and lack of regulations.  He did make an inquiry with the states attorney concerning a ban or at least a moratorium on fracking.  After talking to the States Attorney, Evan Owen and a personal attorney, the board chair decided that “fracking doesn’t sound that bad.”  His response was not to pursue a ban or a moratorium for Franklin County.  The farm owner’s argument remains that a proactive stand now is imperative because it will soon be too late once contracts are signed and equipment rolls in.

The county board members were questioned by phone. Most were receptive and interested but all stated that they had no information on hydraulic fracturing. The farm owner sent a list of questions for the next meeting. They were read at an October 2012 board meeting and that prompting was met with more questions from board members. All questions were turned over to Ryan Buckingham, Emergency Management Director. He was to contact state agencies and pose those questions and report with the responses. No report on Mr. Buckingham’s response has been received by the farmer.

A detailed letter to the Farm Bureau in Franklin County was sent after a phone conversation with Larry Miller. Mr. Miller said he would respond to questions after the regional farm bureau meeting . . . no response yet.

The farm owner states that the drinking water in Franklin and neighboring counties is drawn from Rend Lake. Once the ground water is contaminated it will affect the drinking supply from the lake. The farmer is concerned that the water supply may already be compromised with higher levels of arsenic from coal mining and the use of coal by-products to salt the winter roads . . . a practice now banned. The future onslaught of unknown chemicals seeping into that drinking water along with the land and air pollution from “fracking” is disregarded. One concern should be for children who have no way to speak for the water they drink, the air they breathe and the crop land contaminated by toxic waste where their food is grown.

The farmer asked another concerned taxpayer to call the FCB Chair and he responded in a similar manner. This taxpayer was explicit on how the family would vote in the next election for county board.

Franklin County will not ban or place a moratorium on “fracking” due to the response from States Attorney Evan Owen and the county board chair. Will there be a public response from Buckingham on his findings and will the county board members overturn the chair’s decision?

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