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Letter and Issues List SAFE Sent to Southern Illinois Counties

On January 18, 2013, SAFE  mailed the following letter, and list of issues local governments will likely be dealing with in the face of high-volume fracking, to the county boards of counties throughout Southern Illinois.

Southern Illinoisans Against Fracturing Our Environment (SAFE)

P.O. Box 117, Carbondale, IL 62903

(618) 528-3344

January 15, 2013

Dear Illinois County Officials,

You are likely aware of the controversy surrounding high-volume horizontal hydraulic fracturing set to begin in Illinois in the near future.

What you may not be aware of is exactly why this practice is so controversial.  While small, traditional vertical hydraulic fracturing has taken place in Illinois for decades, high-volume horizontal fracking is a new combination of technologies that is proving much more dangerous.

Here are critical factors to consider regarding high-volume horizontal hydraulic fracturing:

  1. The oil and gas industry is leasing mineral rights all across Southern Illinois at this time to open up the New Albany Shale to horizontal drilling.

  2. Currently in states where horizontal fracking is taking place, it is associated with severe health problems and environmental damage.

  3. Perhaps the most dangerous problem is the destruction of billions of gallons of drinking water. Each “frack” requires between 3 and 5 million gallons of clean water that is then laced with up to 5,000 lbs of toxic chemicals. This water is lost to the hydrological cycle for good and becomes a disposal problem that is unmanageable. Despite industry protests to the contrary this waste enters local wells and aquifers and can also be vented into the air. There are also problems with earthquakes when companies try to force the waste down into wells for storage.

  4. In 2005, the federal government abandoned the environmental rights of local people by allowing hydraulic fracturing to be exempt from the Safe Drinking Water Act, Clean Air Act, Clean Water Act, Superfund, and Emergency Planning and Community Right to Know Act.

  5. Wellbores will extend a mile or more horizontally underground, affecting a much wider area than small vertical fracking.  In addition, massive above-ground processing/transportation infrastructure will be required, with negative impacts on surrounding families and communities.

  6. Air contamination around drilling areas and processing equipment has caused serious health problems for residents in states where high-volume fracking is happening.

  7. Bottom line: families in states like PA, TX, ND, etc who are living around this technology are experiencing water contamination, health issues, severe property value losses, and degradation of quality of life around high-volume fracking.

  8. Currently, in Springfield, politicians are working without public oversight on a bill to “regulate” fracking in Illinois. Regulation has proven meaningless in other states in regard to providing public and environmental safety. For example, governments cannot regulate the quantity used and the pollution of our drinking water supply. Secondly, the state does not have the money, the manpower, nor a system in place to monitor, regulate and enforce an industry that is so dangerous and complicated.

In light of this uncertainty, the question becomes, how will local units of government in Illinois decide to cope with this, and what options do/will they have?

Options for responding to the issues associated with high-volume fracking:

  1. Do nothing.

  2. Sign a letter in support of a moratorium on high-volume horizontal hydraulic fracturing in Illinois until it can be shown that this practice will be done without harming the health, future economic viability, environment, or quality of life for residents of Illinois.

  3. Enact a ban ordinance on high-volume fracking within your county.  SAFE has prepared the required documents, and our lawyers are prepared to defend such an ordinance.

  4. Invite SAFE to come give a presentation explaining the problems associated with high-volume horizontal hydraulic fracturing.

Please do not hesitate to contact SAFE for any reason; we stand ready to help Illinois families and local governmental units face the enormity of the task of dealing with this complex issue.  The second document in this mailing is a preliminary list of issues which counties will need to be considering and dealing with in the event of high-volume fracking taking place within their jurisdiction.

Please feel free to refer to our website for much more information regarding the dangers associated with high-volume horizontal hydraulic fracturing.

Thank you very much for your time,


What Rights Will Counties Have to Govern Themselves

Regarding High-Volume Horizontal Hydraulic Fracturing?

Currently the Counties Code and the Illinois Constitution give counties the legal rights to protect the health and well being of their residents and environment. Does your county want to ensure that any new state law regarding fracking does not destroy these rights?

Issues likely to arise in the event of high-volume horizontal hydraulic fracturing:

1.  Water Usage

a. Does your county want to have the right to prioritize water needs?

e.g. Agricultural needs have priority during seasons of the year or during

droughts, etc.

b. Do you want the option of charging drilling companies more for water than residents


c. Do you want to allow Industry to take water from lands they are fracking, whether it is

private or public water, without permit from local authorities?  [Extreme demands on

local water supplies will negatively impact local residents’ access to water.]

2.  Road usage

a. Do you want to be able to set maximum tonnage of trucks on roads (esp. gravel),

times of day when trucks can go through, speed limits for trucks, and enforce them

with special fines?

b. Do you want the right to divert truck traffic to avoid houses and communities?

3.  Chemicals Used and Baseline Monitoring

a. Do you want to know what chemicals are being used so that you can determine

causes of environmental pollution?

b. Do you want to be able to post notice to all residents in area what symptoms are

associated with chemical poisoning from each chemical used?

c. Will you have the funds to conduct or have access to baseline water and air

monitoring, and will the tests be extensive enough to address pollution of hundreds of


4.  Emergency Services – Will local responders be trained, with proper equipment, to handle

spills of hazardous materials, blowouts or fires associated with shale gas fracking, and

chemical exposure?

5.  Zoning – Will counties be able to establish proper setbacks so drill pads/equipment/pipelines

will be a safe distance away from houses, schools, water sources, or other vital


6.  Waste Management

a. How will the millions of gallons of toxic waste produced by high-volume fracking be

handled, and what power will counties have to protect themselves?

b. How will soil and water be protected from leaky/overflowing waste pits, spills, truck

accidents, disposal of hazardous solid waste, and various mishaps?

c. How will radioactivity from shale, which becomes concentrated in waste, be monitored

in the air, water, and soil?

7.  Water Contamination

a. How will residents, municipalities, and counties be compensated in the event of

aquifer or surface water contamination from fracking?

b. How will such events impact the future economic viability of the county?

8.  Air Contamination – Will the county have the power to set limits on emissions from well sites,

processing equipment, waste pits, diesel engines, and silica from frac sand?  [Historically,

residents have gotten sick from exposure to these airborne substances around high-volume

fracking and processing.]

9.  Health Impacts on Residents and Workers

a. Are local medical services prepared to handle the health effects from exposure to

fracking chemicals and contaminants from the shale, both in terms of acute and

long-term exposure, for both residents and workers?

b. How will local medical services be trained and financed, and have access to names of

the chemicals used in fracking?

10.  Property value losses and damage to other local industries – How will landowners and

businesses be compensated for loss in values for their land/businesses, and how will these

losses impact the future economy of the county?

11.  Tax Structure – Will the industry be required to pay (via taxes/bonds) for emergency service

training and equipment, damage to roads and infrastructure, and any other unanticipated

expenses incurred by the county?


Southern Illinoisans Against Fracturing Our Environment

P.O. Box 117, Carbondale, IL 62903

(618) 528-3344

January 15, 2013

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