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Jackson County board may ask for local control of fracking

MURPHYSBORO — A push for more local control over fracking may get support from the Jackson County Board.

The board’s legislative committee on Tuesday recommended the board send a letter to state lawmakers asking for the power to ban, tax or further regulate horizontal hydraulic fracturing, a gas and oil extraction process. A bill to regulate fracking is in the Illinois House.

The committee made its recommendation after hearing from the Shawnee Group of the Sierra Club and Rich Whitney of Southern Illinoisans Against Fracturing Our Environment, an anti-fracking group known as S.A.F.E.

Rep. John Bradley, D-Marion, brought forth the regulatory bill. Mike Bost, R-Murphysboro and Brandon Phelps, D-Harrisburg, are among more than four dozen cosponsors.

The board’s legislative committee also asked Vice-Chairwoman Julie Peterson and historian Rachel Malcolm Ensor to meet with Assistant State’s Attorney Dan Brenner to discuss an ordinance creating a local historic preservation committee for properties in the county.

Board members Tom Redmond and Orval Rowe presented a preliminary report on creating either a director of administration or county coordinator.

Rowe, Redmond and Jackson Growth Alliance Executive Director Jeff Doherty are putting the finishing touches on their report.

“We will have something here in the next couple weeks,” Redmond said.

The board would convene a special meeting to discuss adding one of the positions to the financially strapped county’s payroll.

Rowe said adding payroll at a time when the county is asking departments to cut expenses would be a “tough sell.”

The board announced last week that its general fund would run out of money by July and would likely finish the fiscal year about $4.5 million in the red.

Legislative committee Chairman Edward Benyas said a report should include expected savings if one of the positions was created.

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