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Johnson County board hears fracking input


GOREVILLE — Johnson County Board Chairman Jeff Mears said he wants more time to research fracking before the board votes on a two-year moratorium for the proposed gas and oil extraction method.

His comments came shortly after adjournment Wednesday of a special commissioners meeting in the Goreville High School cafeteria that drew as many as 100 people.

There were representatives from Southern Illinoisans Against Fracturing our Environment (SAFE) who spoke out against fracking. Industry supporters were Travis Aikin, a consultant with America’s Natural Gas Alliance and Kevin Reimer, a private geologist consultant from Harrisburg.

“There was a lot of information out there,” Mears said, noting a moratorium was simply a show of support and state lawmakers will eventually make the final decision regarding the regulation of fracking in Southern Illinois.

Mears said there have been 188 individual mineral right leases purchased in a targeted area in Johnson County. Drillers could be allowed under the Illinois Drilling Operations Act to put a well pad on property without the property owners’ consent, or drill under property without the property owners’ consent.

“That’s kind of spooky to me,” Mears said, noting that he’s not impressed with oil and natural gas arguments that fracking will create more jobs and be an economic gain for the area.

“I don’t think jobs alone are something to sell your soul over,” Mears said.

The special meeting served solely as an informational gathering and was moderated by officials with University of Illinois Ex-tension.

“Tonight is an informational meeting. We are not here to debate. We want you to inform the board of your opinions,” extension agent Ronald Duncan told the audience.

SAFE opposes fracking because it would lead to water scarcity, create toxic waste, increase the likelihood of earthquakes, create public health concerns and escalate local costs for area residents, said Rich Fedder of SAFE.

Aikin countered those arguments, saying Southern Illinois has relied on the coal industry as a staple of its economy and the fracking venture was another new energy opportunity.

He also opposed a moratorium on grounds of time lost; saying permitting and testing for fracking would in itself cover about a two-year period.

“We would be setting ourselves behind. We have an opportunity through permitting and testing here to see what kind of impact this would have on Southern Illinois,” Aikin said.


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