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Report on Hydrofracturing: A Southern Illinois Perspective

By Louise M. Cook

Southern Illinois has a unique opportunity.  It is one of the first of the shale-bearing states to have a chance to see the track record of hydrofracturing for natural gas before it comes into the area. Other states with hydrofracturing, such as Pennsylvania, Wyoming, West Virginia, New York, and Texas, have learned about hydrofracturing by trial and error. A fellow state, North Carolina, is looking at legislation and regulations to manage this industry there. By learning from their examples, Illinois has the chance to prepare for the problems, and the benefits, of hydrofracturing before it arrives, if it arrives, and avoid the pitfalls that are causing problems elsewhere.

Hydrofracturing, or “fracking,” is still evolving. Because of this fact, to write a report at this time is to try to hit a moving target. However, there are some things we do know already. We know there are a few areas that regularly cause arguments between those who are in favor of fracking, and those who oppose fracking. And there have now been studies done which allow us to shine a little light on the science of fracking, so we can look at the facts, rather than the emotion, behind those arguments. The usual areas of disagreement are: job creation and economic benefits to the community; water pollution; earthquakes; water usage; air pollution; noise/light pollution; forced “pooling” of underground mineral rights; damage to local roads and infrastructure; lease abuse of landowners’ rights; and communities overburdened by sudden influx of gas/oil crews. Looking, one at a time, at each of these claims, will show how much of the controversy is hype, and how much is fact.

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