George Wendt, member of the McLean County Land Use Committee, wants to bring hydraulic fracturing, or “fracking”, to McLean County.
What is Fracking?
Fracking is a process used to extract natural gas from rock located deep underground. Wells are drilled straight-down and then horizontally, thousands of feet below the Earth’s surface. Millions of gallons of high-pressured water, laden with chemical poisons, are shot into the drilled well to fracture rock and release the previously unattainable gas. A sizeable percentage of the fracking fluid remains in the rock, eventually seeping into groundwater.
Having been credited with providing an abundant source of energy in the domestic market, fracking is simultaneously destroying communities across the nation. People living close to wells have fallen gravely ill, water has been direly polluted, and in some cases drinking water contains flammable gas. (For stories and evidence of the destructiveness of fracking, see the numerous article in the resource section at the end of this article.)
Gas industry PR people argue that fracking is totally safe. Such statements defy the amounting evidence collected by citizens. The 2010 documentary Gaslands, directed by Josh Fox, provides a great deal of evidence linking fracking with serious health problems and water pollution. This film was shown at the Normal Theater in 2011, organized by the Ecology Action Center to help get the word out about the practice.
Concerns over fracking have also reached the Illinois state legislature. One issue is the lack of oversight over fracking operations. The Halliburton Loophole of 2005 notoriously exempts from regulation, as stipulated in the Clean Water Act, the many toxic chemicals used in the process. Senate Bill 3280 would impose some degree of regulation over fracking operations in Illinois.
Fracking: Round Two
In the August Land Use Committee meeting, George Wendt argued for changes to special use permits that could make it easier for gas companies to operate in the county. Wendt’s actions amount to Round Two on the issue. In 2011 David Hines, managing member of Production Energy, LLC (Iowa), also attempted to change special use permit rules in the county, pointedly asking that a required public hearing be eliminated for his fracking operation. By Wendt’s recent comments, it appears as if the McLean County special use permit rules are again a sticking point for the oil and gas companies.
In response, to make sure that the Land Use Committee knows that many oppose fracking in our communities, Illinois People’s Action has called for people to attend the next Land Use Committee, to be held 4:30 pm on Thursday, September 6th, in Room 400 (Fourth Floor) of the Government Center (115 E. Washington, Bloomington, IL).
It’s About Democracy
Apparently part of the struggle against fracking will involve defending current McLean County special use permits. McLean County stipulates that companies must now demonstrate to the McLean County Board, and indirectly to the public, that their economic activity will not negatively affect public well-being. Land use regulations stipulate that economic activity cannot
* be detrimental to or endanger the health, safety, morals, comfort, or welfare of the public,
* be injurious to the use and enjoyment of other property in the immediate vicinity, and
* diminish property values in the immediate area.
Fracking has great potential to be detrimental to the public’s welfare, and by using horizontal drilling under us, the practice is injurious to individual property rights. There is a political process for a use permit that includes a hearing by the public, a right of ours that the gas representatives are trying to take away. We should defend the current regulations and demand that fracking be unacceptable in McLean County.
Compiled by Dawn Dannenbring-Carlson
Hydraulic Fracturing 101, Earthworks
An excellent comprehensive summary of fracking and associated environmental problems.
Gaslands Documentary Website
Website of the documentary that helped educate the nation on the environmental horrors created by fracking.
A Colossal Fracking Mess, Vanity Fair
The story of how fracking affected the town of Dimock, Pennsylvania.
Close Encounters with Gas Well Pollution, by Elizabeth Shogren, NPR
The experience of a gas boom documented by NPR.
Natural Gas Drilling Produces Radioactive Wastewater, by Abrahm Lustgarten and ProPublica, Scientific American
Wastewater from natural gas drilling in New York State is radioactive, as high as 267 times the limit safe for discharge into the environment and thousands of times the limit safe for people to drink.
Drought Strains U.S. Oil Production, by Steve Hargreaves, CNN Money
This recent report shows the connection between fresh water and natural gas production.
Natural Gas from Shale Not Suitable, May Worsen Climate Change, Cornell University
Natural gas derived from fracking is not so clean as some might think.
Oil, Gas Exploration in Area Stirs Concern Over Fracking, by Scott Richardson, Pantagraph
This Pantagraph article outlines the last attempt an oil company tried to quietly bring fracking to McLean County.