Williamson County to discuss natural gas fracking - KFVS12 News & Weather Cape Girardeau, Carbondale, Poplar Bluff

Williamson County to discuss natural gas fracking

MARION, IL (KFVS) -

Hydraulic fracturing, better known as natural gas "fracking", has become a hot button issue around the country and now - in southern Illinois. Both sides of the issue will voice their opinions in a meeting at the pavilion of Marion Wednesday evening.

"The county clerk told me they're coming in just about every day looking at mineral rights areas - different companies," said Williamson County Board Chairman Brent Gentry.

Gentry says he was first made aware of fracking two weeks ago when a man from Los Angeles walked into his office with a lease, asking for possible fracking rights to county-owned land. That's when gentry says he decided to put together a public forum; to educate himself, and the public.

"Anytime there's fracking, there could be problems and if there are problems, what are they going to do about it when there are no laws in place," said Gentry.

"Fracking" pulls natural gas out of rock deep underground. Basically, natural gas companies drill down, fracture the rock, pump in water and sand, and pump out natural gas.

"The material you use is about 99.5 percent water and sand," said SIU Associate Professor Sam Spearing, PhD with the Department of Mining and Mineral Resources Engineering. "It's that half a percent that's got environmentalists upset."

The remaining half a percent, Spearing says contains chemicals that kill bacteria and keep the well from corroding. Some worry where those chemicals go.

"After you create your well bore, you leave the water underground. So there is a chance of causing later pollution, that's an issue," said Spearing.

"A whole slew of toxic chemicals," said Chuck Paprocki with the group SAFE (Southern Illinoisans against Fracking our Environment). "People are getting cancer where fracking is taking place."

Marion attorney Ron Osman says there's no proof of that. He did not want to go on camera Wednesday but says he would be at the meeting to tell the crowd that fracking isn't as bad as some fear and that it could bring jobs to Williamson County.

Those who oppose the process say without regulation, it's too risky.

"Our concern is that there are no federal, state, or county regulations to regulate fracking," said Paprocki. "Without that, in light of oil and gas companies' history, we're requesting a ban on fracking at all levels of government until we can be sure peoples' health is alright and the environment will be safe."

The meeting takes place Wednesday evening from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. at the Pavilion of Marion behind Marion Star Center Mall.

Copyright 2012 KFVS. All rights reserved.

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