The January meeting of the Saline County Board Thursday heard from visitor Judy Winkeler about the danger of fracking.
"I would like the whole board to hear a presentation from SAFE," she said. Winkeler handed out to the board printed materials from the Carbondale organization calling itself Southern Illinoisans Against Fracturing Our Environment.
Fracking is horizontal hydraulic fracturing or "fracking" for short. According to SAFE's literature the process requires drilling a vertical hole 2,000 to 10,000 feet deep and then "turning the corner" to drill horizontally through the shale layer and fracture the rock so as to release natural gas. The fracturing takes place when thousands of gallons of water and chemicals are pumped under pressure into the shale rock.
According to SAFE, fracking is a reckless and dangerous new technology.
It uses staggering amounts of water and creates hazardous wastewater which the industry has no means of disposing of, according to SAFE's information. River water is too dirty for the process and thus cleaner ground water must be used.
The New Albany shale region of Southern Illinois is under 2,000 square miles of prime farmland. According to SAFE's calculations it will require one trillion gallons of relatively clean water to frack the entire region. One trillion gallons of water will empty Rend Lake 18 times, Crab Orchard Lake 50 times, and Lake of Egypt 80 times, Winkeler said.
This water will then become toxic waste and needs special storage and handling. It cannot be used again, according to SAFE. It is eight times saltier than the Dead Sea and saturated with heavy metals, radioactive isotopes such as barium, strontium and radium which occur naturally in shale, according to the information submitted by Winkeler.
How is the oil industry going to dispose of this waste? SAFE claims that the oil and gas industry has no plan.
For this reason SAFE is calling for a two year moratorium on fracking in Illinois until a time when the industry can ensure that our water will remain safe.
Right now SAFE maintains the industry is busy in Springfield negotiating a "sweetheart bill" which will not protect our water. SAFE says that if we poison our water supply we cannot fix it.
Last month the state of New York issued a moratorium on fracking as have several European countries.
Winkeler cited reports that State Representative John Bradley was introducing a bill in the legislature to allow the state to regulate fracking and she said, "This will deprive local governments of control of their mineral and water rights." Winkeler pointed out that the state has only one inspector for all of Southern Illinois and could not provide adequate protection with such understaffing.
Chairman of the county's farm/land use committee, Bob Oglesby said that Winkeler's request to allow SAFE to make a presentation to the entire board was unnecessary since his committee is studying the matter and will make a report to the board in the near future. SAFE made a presentation to the committee in 2012 but the elections have changed the face of the committee and currently Oglesby is the only member who has seen the presentation.
Page 2 of 2 - Winkeler wants the entire board to hear all the facts.
In other board business the board heard from Chief Assessing Officer Sheryl Pearce about plans to hold an informative public meeting on how the assessment process works.
Citizens have been complaining about increases in their property taxes and Pearce feels it would be beneficial to explain the complexities to the public. The date set for the meeting is Tuesday, March 12. The place has yet to be determined since acting chairman Gary Siebert suggested that the suggested Harris-Pruett building may be to small a venue. Pearce agreed to look into securing the Lions Club for the meeting. Treasurer Danny Ragan said it may be prudent to advertise that this will not be a forum for complaints but rather an informative and instructional meeting.
Treasurer Danny Ragan reported that the county tax sale will take place Feb. 13 at the Saline County Detention Center and that 900 parcels will be offered at auction.
"We should be able to distribute $1-2 million on Feb. 20," said Ragan.