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Williamson County

 Williamson County Has Not Taken A Stand on a Moratorium

Williamson County Commissioner Brent Gentry said a representative from Woolsey Energy Corp. came to his office early July 2012.    Mr. Gentry invited people to attend the next Williamson County Commissioner’s meeting Tuesday, July 10th. Chuck Barnadi is the states attorney for Williamson county.

The Board set up a public forum July 25th, 2012, in which SAFE and industry could speak to the people of Williamson County.  The event was video recorded, but we have not successfully been able to get that footage. Many people have asked to see that, but it is still not being uploaded. We have made repeated requests for the footage. If you would like to see it too, please contact Gregory Wendt at gwendt@lib.siu.edu and urge him to post the footage on SAFE’s youtube channel for the public to see. There are very good scientific reports that were offered.

We spoke with one of the members of the board after most people had left the forum.  The board is already being sued for “doing the right thing” and instituting a tax to fund the schools, while all the other counties sat back and waited for someone else to do it first. After Williamson took the step, and got sued, the other counties quietly did the same thing and are getting all the advantages, while Williamson is the only county getting sued. Everyone is probably watching for the outcome of the Williamson suit before any other suits are filed. Meanwhile they are out time and costs to the tune of about a quarter million, and still counting.

Attorney Ron Osman is the one who sued them over the sales tax, on behalf of two businesses, including an oil company. The issue right now is over their standing to sue. The trial court ruled in the County’s favor but the Appellate Court reversed. Here’s the cite: P & S Grain, LLC v. County of Williamson, 399 Ill.App.3d 836, 926 N.E.2d 466 (5th Dist. 2010).   They are tracking costs and tracking hours, and using an accounting system to quantify what those hours are costing the county in attorney time, because the attorney hours could be used doing something more constructive for the county.  “Doing the right thing” and taking legal action against fracking in Williamson County will reportedly draw another lawsuit; SAFE attorneys stand willing to offer their services.  Alternatively, Williamson County could sign a letter in support of a moratorium at the state level; this would carry no legal consequence but still contribute to protecting Williamson County residents from the dangers and invasion of privacy from high-volume fracking.

One thing that we found disturbing about the public forum was the way Ron Osman characterized the opponents of fracking as “passionate” but the industry had the “facts.”  This was not only patronizing, but more importantly, false. This is part of an intentional campaign to discredit SAFE.  The accusation is basically that: SAFE is well meaning but we don’t know what we’re talking about, we’re just spreading inchoate fear.

The problem was compounded when we read the Daily Republican.  It picked up unerringly on Osman’s characterization.  That was the central theme of the article–that we are passionate, but industry “has the facts.”

Here is a response to the article in question.

Dear Editor,

Thank you for your article on the fracking forum in Williamson County.  This is such an important issue, of which the general public knows so little.

Unfortunately, your article made it appear that the people who want to protect our land were “passionate” whereas the snake oil salesmen from the oil and gas industry presented facts.  That is of course how Mr. Osman, one of the gas industry spokesmen, patronizingly described the rest of us.

But anyone who went to the meeting knows that this is not accurate.  There were some 20 two-minute talks presented by the public.  All but one of these spoke against fracking.  Many of the speakers were indeed passionate.  But they were also full of concrete facts, which the industry is not telling.  Many of the speakers cited research recently published in scientific and medical journals.

By contrast, and as you quoted in your article, the primary published “factual” authority that Mr. Osman presented was a Department of Defense study done in 1988 which said that there was no evidence that the kind of fracking being done in that era was contaminating ground water.

In the first place, the conclusion of that 1988 report was false, or else it was falsely represented by Mr. Osman.  I invite anyone to read the 1978 Illinois EPA report which documents specific incidents of contamination in Clinton County from the old style of fracking.

But more importantly, as both sides of this issue certainly know, the issue today involves a rather new technology called High Volume Horizontal Fracking.   This technology has only been used for about 5 years.  The Department of Defense report from 25 years ago is completely irrelevant.

I submit to all of your readers that it is the gas industry which is not presenting the facts.

Richard Fedder

An article promoting the public forum Commissioner Brent Gentry hosted:

MARION, IL (KFVS)

Hydraulic fracturing, better known as natural gas “fracking”, has become a hot button issue around the country and now – in southern Illinois. Both sides of the issue will voice their opinions in a meeting at the pavilion of Marion Wednesday evening.

“The county clerk told me they’re coming in just about every day looking at mineral rights areas – different companies,” said Williamson County Board Chairman Brent Gentry.

Gentry says he was first made aware of fracking two weeks ago when a man from Los Angeles walked into his office with a lease, asking for possible fracking rights to county-owned land. That’s when Gentry says he decided to put together a public forum; to educate himself, and the public.

“Anytime there’s fracking, there could be problems and if there are problems, what are they going to do about it when there are no laws in place,” said Gentry.

“Fracking” pulls natural gas out of rock deep underground. Basically, natural gas companies drill down, fracture the rock, pump in water and sand, and pump out natural gas.

“The material you use is about 99.5 percent water and sand,” said SIU Associate Professor Sam Spearing, PhD with the Department of Mining and Mineral Resources Engineering. “It’s that half a percent that’s got environmentalists upset.”

The remaining half a percent, Spearing says contains chemicals that kill bacteria and keep the well from corroding. Some worry where those chemicals go.

“After you create your well bore, you leave the water underground. So there is a chance of causing later pollution, that’s an issue,” said Spearing.

“A whole slew of toxic chemicals,” said Chuck Paprocki with the group SAFE (Southern Illinoisans against Fracking our Environment). “People are getting cancer where fracking is taking place.”

Marion attorney Ron Osman says there’s no proof of that. He did not want to go on camera Wednesday but says he would be at the meeting to tell the crowd that fracking isn’t as bad as some fear and that it could bring jobs to Williamson County.

Those who oppose the process say without regulation, it’s too risky.

“Our concern is that there are no federal, state, or county regulations to regulate fracking,” said Paprocki. “Without that, in light of oil and gas companies’ history, we’re requesting a ban on fracking at all levels of government until we can be sure peoples’ health is alright and the environment will be safe.”

The meeting takes place Wednesday evening from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. at the Pavilion of Marion behind Marion Star Center Mall.

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