Mt. Vernon Register-News

State News

March 13, 2013

Fracking opponents rally at Illinois Statehouse

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SPRINGFIELD (AP) — Environmentalists and land owners rallied Tuesday against a proposal that would jumpstart hydraulic fracturing in Illinois, saying the drilling practice — known as fracking — is unsafe and requires further study.

The bill is among the strictest in the nation but was written with help from the oil and gas industries, which have been seeking certainty in the law before investing too heavily in the practice.

Fracking uses high-pressure mixtures of water, sand or gravel and chemicals to crack deep rock formations that then release oil and natural gas. Bruce Ratain, of advocacy organization Environment Illinois, and others are seeking a 2-year moratorium on the practice. Ratain said that would allow for more environmental and health impact studies as well as for advances in drilling technology that might ease problems.

Some land owners say they were ignored during the negotiations in which the fracking regulatory bill was crafted and fear their communities' water could be polluted and that fracking could cause earthquakes.

Tabitha Tripp, who lives on 10 acres in Union County, was upset that her legislators supported the fracking proposal.

"I have a home, a well and two kids, and all it would take is one spill and I would lose everything," Tripp said. "That's why I'm here. It's important that the people that represent us in the Illinois congress know that we are awake and are aware and we don't want this going on in Southern Illinois."

Ratain said fracking has been "a rolling environmental disaster" in other states. He said Illinois' proposed new regulations — while tougher overall than those in other states — don't include provisions that environmentalists and land owners consider essential, including keeping control of fracking activities local, banning the use of toxic chemicals and requiring drilling sites be farther from residential areas.

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