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Williamson County learns about fracking issues – Marion, IL | The Daily Republican


Harrisburg geologist Kevin Reimer spoke in support of fracking.


To frack, or not to frack? That was the question at a special meeting of the Williamson County Board Wednesday night at The Pavilion of the City of Marion.

Williamson County Commissioner Brent Gentry called the meeting as a public forum on the subject of hydraulic fracturing, also known as “fracking.” Fracking is a practice used to bring natural gas deposits to the service by pumping a mixture of water, sand and chemicals down a well to fracture the shale that is trapping the gas.

Gentry invited anyone who would like to know more about the subject and a crowd of over 100 people filled the banquet room at The Pavilion.

The meeting brought a large group of protesters and supporters, eager to express their opinions to the board. Gentry warned, however, that no board decision would be made Wednesday. The purpose was just to listen and educate themselves, along with everyone else.

The board heard from numerous speakers who expressed concerns and offered expertise on the subject to the board.

The majority of those against fracking are concerned that the practice brings water contamination.

Liz Patula of Williamson County said that she is aware of several who have had to abandon their homes due to environments that were killing them. She also pointed out that fracking can affect residents who don’t even live on fracking land.

“Do we want industrial centers in our backyard?” Patula asked the board. “I am here to ask commissioners to find a way to prevent fracking in Williamson County.”

Others against the practice warned that fracking can cause cancer and bring negative effects to the area for years to come. One speaker also warned that banks don’t give loans on homes near fracking and insurance companies often deny support for homes near fracking.

“It is not safe and clean,” Jeff Driver said. “We need a comprehensive set of rules. The state of Illinois is not a suitable laboratory to work out concerns.”

Penni Livingtson, an attorney from Fairview Heights, Ill., has spent 25 years working to clean up the state’s environment.

When addressing the board, Livingston cautioned, “Nothing I’ve done in 25 years cleaning up the environment will even compare. Please have courage. Be the first county in Illinois to ban fracking.”

Louise Cook, a lawyer from Vienna, presented some of her research to the board. She primarily discussed the subject of water pollution and told the board that dozens and dozens of proven cases have been found.

“In every state that there’s fracking, there’s pollution,” she said.

When Gentry notified Cook that she was reaching the two-minute limit that speakers were given, Cook told the board that she will offer her services free of charge for the county or any other county for research on the subject. Cook’s promise drew a standing ovation from the crowd.

Kevin Reimer, a Marion native now living in Harrisburg, was present as a supporter of fracking. Reimer is a geologist and presented some of the positives that fracking can bring.

“There’s no signs that hydraulic fracturing has contaminated a fresh water source,” Reimer said. “I’ve got a 9-year-old and I don’t want to see our groundwater contaminated.”

Reimer explained the process of fracking as “taking a fluid and pumping it into a rock faster than it can absorb. It opens micro fracturing less than a millimeter in width and consists of 90-percent water. There are zero cases of contaminated water.”

Ron Osman of Marion also spoke in favor of fracking. Osman, a Marion attorney, spoke with 15 years of experience in the oil and gas business and has negotiated leases in several counties.

Osman noted the potential of this industry for Southern Illinois. He explained that there are 13 leasing companies in the Illinois Basin and over $100 million has been spent so far and $400 million will probably eventually be spent in just leasing. Currently, Osman said that over 30 workers from Woolsey Energy Corp. already live and work in Williamson County.

Osman stressed that business is being conducted properly.

“The Illinois Department of Natural Resources will not issue a lease without a complete contract (with the owner of the mineral rights),” Osman said. “It is not a new technique. There is no chance of groundwater contamination.”

Osman also cited a recent case in which the Environmental Protection Agency told Congress that no case of groundwater contamination has been found. Osman said the industry is regulated well.

“Technology has the capability of making Southern Illinois an industry that will create a bunch of jobs and oil,” he said. “I will not do anything based upon science that will contaminate the ground water.

“Look beyond the passion and look at the facts.”

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