It was not supposed to be a debate but at times it sounded like one.
The University of Illinois Extension sponsored an informational meeting regarding fracking at the Goreville Elementary School cafeteria Wednesday evening at 6 p.m.
The Johnson County Board has been asked to consider voting for a two year moratorium on fracking in the state of Illinois.
Present were the members of the Johnson County Board, representatives of the gas industry and members of SAFE (Southern Illinoisans Against Fracking our Environment) from Carbondale. Two hundred local residents attended as well.
TV stations covering the event were numerous, as were newspapers who sent reporters.
The topic, fracking, is controversial because of varying opinions of its effect on the water supply. Fracking is the use of water injected at extremely high pressures into rock formations deep underground. The water creates cracks in the shale deposits releasing oil and gas. There are other concerns as well: property rights, air pollution, heavy truck traffic and the actual number of jobs that will be created for Illinois residents.
Representing the oil and gas industry were Travis Akin, Marion who represents the American Natural Gas Alliance and Kevin Reimer, a consulting geologist from Harrisburg.
Representing SAFE were Richard Fedder, a mathematician and attorney; Vito Mastrangelo, a Mt. Vernon attorney; Annette McMichael, a Johnson County landowner and Dr. Rachel Cook, a soil science professor at SIUC.
The SAFE representatives argued for the need to slow down and study the safety of fracking.
Akin, speaking for the gas industry, said that our state's debt and unemployment were reason enough to go ahead with drilling and fracking as planned. "Let's get our people employed; let's use our natural resources," he said.
Mastrangelo said, "We have to leave fossil fuels in the ground. Climate change is an issue."
Reimer countered concerns of depleting the water supply by asserting that the huge amounts of water used in fracking will come from the Ohio River.
Cook said, "Injection wells (used to dispose of waste water) are causing earthquakes in Oklahoma."
Cook also warned, "Ground water contamination is very expensive and difficult to clean up."
State Rep. John Bradley’s House Bill 2615 — the Illinois Hydraulic Fracturing Regulatory Act — came under fire from Fedder.
He said the Bradley Bill "has too many holes in it that benefit the oil and gas industries."
Fedder said the bill:
Does not regulate where the water should come from;
Leaves questions regarding disposal of waste water unresolved;
Does not address the possibility of earthquakes caused by fracking;
Does not adequately address the threats of air and water pollution;
Does not address the increased costs to local government that an oil boom would cause.
Page 2 of 2 - Questions from the audience were welcomed and both SAFE and industry representative Reimer answered them for over an hour.
The meeting concluded at 8 p.m.
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