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Johnson County Residents Weigh-In on Fracking

By Fanna Haile-Selassie By Andy Shofstall

Story Created: May 8, 2013 at 10:17 PM CDT

Story Updated: May 8, 2013 at 10:42 PM CDT

GOREVILLE — Johnson County Commissioners held a special board meeting Wednesday night to get more information about plans for fracking in their communities.

Nearly 200 landowners in the county have already agreed to lease their land to drilling companies, but many others have doubts about the process.

About 100 people showed up to the meeting and most were wary of fracking. Groups from both sides got to speak, and it was a chance for commissioners to get a feel for whether the county should consider a moratorium on fracking. There was no shortage of strong words from people who do not want to see hydraulic fracturing enter Johnson County.

“Simply put, water for oil is a fool’s trade,” said Richard Fedder with the anti-fracking group Southern Illinoisans Against Fracking our Environment.

But insisting that Johnson County Commissioners should put a moratorium on fracking could be futile, and Commissioners know it.

“The moratorium is largely symbolic in nature. Again, a local moratorium really doesn’t trump state or federal law,” explained Ron Duncan with the University of Illinois Extension Office.

Fracking opponents said it would at least send a message to all the oil and gas companies. County Chair Jeff Mears said he hasn’t decided one way or the other, but he’s interested in listening to what the companies have to say.

“It is my belief that hydraulic fracturing is not dangerous. It is a process that has been employed for many, many years,” said Kevin Reimer.

Reimer is a consulting geologist who works with oil and gas companies. He and communications front-man Travis Akin said fracking companies don’t know yet if they can make money off the shale rock in Southern Illinois, but there is great potential, which would also benefit the area.

“If it is as big as people think it is, it will be a big industry. I would just ask people to just look at the experience that we have here in southern Illinois in the coal industry,” said Akin.

But in this meeting, it was going to take a lot more convincing to sway the crowd.

“I’m not going to put up with it myself. I worked too damn hard for somebody to come in and take my property from underneath me,” insisted Johnson County resident Dave Holly.

S.A.F.E wants to see a moratorium until scientists can prove that the process is safe. The group is pushing a bill in Springfield that would impose a two year moratorium statewide.

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