A group of local citizens is lobbying Helvetia Township to ban the high-volume oil and gas drilling technique known as hydraulic fracturing also know as fracking.
Larry Brammer, a member of Greater Highland Area Concerned Citizens (GHACC), said a pipeline rupture that caused 4,200 gallons of crude oil to flow into Silver Lake in July is what prompted the group to call for such action.
“They had that pipeline spill for Silver Lake and that got us worried about it — what fracking would do,” Brammer said.
Fracking generally uses a mixture of water, chemicals and sand to crack rock formations deep underground and release trapped oil and gas. Opponents fear it can cause air and water pollution and health problems, though industry officials contend the method is safe.
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“Even if they do it right, I believe solar and wind are the answers to our problems, and they don’t really need to be digging in the ground anyway,” Brammer said.
GHACC representatives plan to make their case to township trustees at the board’s next regular meeting, which is set for 7 p.m. on Tuesday, Oct. 6 at the Helvetia Township Office, located at 817 Main St. in Highland. The group has had legal counsel draft an ordinance for the township to consider. However, no formal vote of the board is planned at the upcoming meeting, township officials said.
The Illinois General Assembly passed a law in 2013 allowing fracking. The state’s permit application process opened in November 2014. But soon after, seven landowners, including one from Madison County, and the group Southern Illinoisans Against Fracturing Our Environment had sought an injunction against the Illinois Department of Natural Resources’ rules on fracking from being implemented.
Madison County Circuit Judge Barb Crowder threw out the challenge. In July, the 5th District Appellate Court in Mount Vernon issued an opinion upholding Crowder’s ruling.
Illinois’ fracking regulations have been called some of the strictest guidelines in the country. But that is of little comfort to the members of GHACC.
“Yeah, but what does that mean?” Brammer said. “Who is going to regulate it? The state is broke.”
With the falling price of oil, only two companies have even registered to do fracking in Illinois, and no permits have been issued to drill any wells.
“We’ve received no applications and issued no permits,” said Mike Mankowski, director of the IDNR Office of Oil and Gas.
But if the price of oil goes back up, that could change.
“There are lots and lots and lots of leases out my way,” said Kay Ahaus, a GHACC member who lives in southern Helvetia Township.
Whether or not townships have the authority to ban fracking is unclear. The law says: “the name of the city, village, or incorporated town and be accompanied with a certified copy of the official consent for the hydraulic fracturing operations to occur from the municipal authorities where the well site is proposed to be located.”
There is no mention of township or county consent required, though counties can file written objections. However, the fracking law says that all applicable local laws are not preempted by the act.
Ahaus said her group just wants to “stop the destruction before it starts.”
“The local people should still have some say in this. If they don’t want it, why should it be there?” she said.
In addition to attending the next township meeting, the group is also circulating a petition. Those who want to sign it can email GHACC2015@gmail.com. The group also has a Facebook page, facebook.com/GHACC2015.
What is fracking?
Illinois’ geology is comprised primarily of sedimentary rocks such as limestone, sandstone and shale that formed in ancient oceanic environments. Shale is an excellent source rock for oil and gas formation because it is rich in organic material, but its permeability is very low. With the traditional drilling methods of the past, tapping into these formations would have produced little oil or natural gas.
Fracking involves drilling vertically into a deposit of shale, and then steering the borehole horizontally into the target formation. Next a well casing is installed and perforated, and a highly pressurized stream of water, proprietary chemicals and sand is injected into the boreholes to create fractures within the shale and increase its permeability. Sand is deposited within the fractures to keep them open, allowing oil or natural gas to escape to the well head. Several horizontal wells can be completed within a single vertical borehole, either in different radial directions or in target formations at different depths.
Source: Northern Illinois University