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Johnson County passes fracking moratorium

The Johnson County Board of Commissioners on Monday passed a one-year moratorium on hy-draulic fracturing.

The board voted 2-1 in favor of putting the brakes on the controversial process that involves horizontal drilling combined with the injection of water, sand and chemicals at high pressure to fracture deep rock formations in order to release oil and natural gas.

Board Chairman Jeff Mears and Commissioner Ernie Henshaw voted in favor of the moratorium; Vice Chairman Phil Stewart opposed the measure.

Mears said the state will ultimately determine when fracking will come to Johnson, and other Southern Illinois counties, but the board wanted to be on the record opposing operations — at least for the time being.

“Our decision is merely symbolic,” Mears admitted. “I don’t want to slam the door on the job opportunities, but on the other hand we’re not 100 percent sold on the fracking industry and the process either.”

“The two of us (approving commissioners) believe it’s coming, and the state is going to be the one to say yes or no ultimately — it’s not the county’s deci-sion.”

Mears said following a public forum earlier this month in Johnson County, it became clear there is too much unknown as to how fracking would affect the county’s infrastructure and natural resources.

Representatives of oil and gas companies have been pursuing mineral right leases in a targeted area of Johnson County, according to Mears. In that targeted area, which Mears was careful to point out does not include the entire county, about 51 percent of landowners agreed to lease their min-eral rights. He estimates about 180 landowners agreed to leases.

Stewart said the major-ity of landowners he has talked to are in favor of fracking and do not believe it will damage the county’s natural resources.

He said he opposed the moratorium because of fracking’s promise to provide and economic boost to the county.

“The county needs jobs,” he said. “And the taxes we would get from it would help the county.”


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