'Fracking' critics seek more safeguards in Illinois

2013-05-20T18:20:00Z 2013-05-20T23:43:25Z 'Fracking' critics seek more safeguards in IllinoisBy Kenneth Lowe |

BLOOMINGTON — With Illinois lawmakers poised to vote on a bill that would allow “fracking” in Illinois, a documentary filmmaker and a noted environmentalist/author joined local activists Monday to speak against the controversial drilling method.

Josh Fox, writer and director of “Gasland II,” sequel to an Emmy Award-winning, Oscar-nominated documentary, attended a fundraiser at the Illinois People’s Action office at 510 E. Washington St., Bloomington, before the film’s premiere Monday night at the Normal Theater. He and fellow event guest Sandra Steingraber are expected to testify Tuesday in a House committee hearing in Springfield.

“We are very worried about the impact on our communities in downstate Illinois, as well as the threat of pollution and contamination of our air, water and soil quality across the state,” said Barbara Heyl, a member of IPA’s campaign against hydraulic fracturing.

Hydraulic fracturing — fracking — is a controversial process that uses high-pressure mixtures of water, sand or gravel and chemicals to crack rock formations to release oil and natural gas.

Steingraber, an author and biologist, argues fracking releases much more than oil and natural gas, and in a shallow shale area like Illinois' New Albany shale, pollutants and radioactive gases could escape into aquifers, even through the cement shell cases as they age.

"Once you frack, you can't go back," she told a reporter. "It's like shattering the lid on Pandora's box."

An Illinois native and graduate of Illinois State and Illinois Wesleyan universities, Steingraber detailed her experiences with cancer she blamed on drinking water in her hometown of Pekin in the book “Living Downstream.” Now living in New York, she also has been active in the fight to ban fracking there.

Steingraber said the Illinois General Assembly is rushing to approve the practice without first conducting scientific studies on the potential effect on the health of the environment and Illinois residents. New York State has been studying the environmental implications of fracking for four years, while Illinois hasn’t done a single study, she said.

“You want good science to inform the regulations,” Steingraber said. “Yet, you’re putting forth rules that are just made up by politicians working behind closed doors with no science informing them.”

Fox remarked on his efforts to document the negative effects of the practice in Pennsylvania and the fight to ban it in New York State.

“We ask the question: Why isn’t the government doing something? Why aren’t (citizens opposed to fracking) being protected by their own government?” Fox said.

The bill that may be voted on this week by the Illinois House seeks a balance between safety and responsible economic development, said Kyna Legner, Midwest field director for Energy In Depth, a group arguing in favor of fracking.

“We can still move forward without fear that everything is going to get away from us,” Legner said. “We have safeguards in place.”

The McLean County Board in February approved a resolution urging the state to allow county-level regulation of the practice.

L.E. Hlavach contributed to this report.

Copyright 2015 All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

(32) Comments

  1. CLG4
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    CLG4 - May 28, 2013 6:58 am
    Let me see how do the producers and actors of the movie make their living. Oh they SELL a product. And the real ignorant people let others make money off of their fear. For anyone who really wants to know about fracking and groundwater, like a aquifer - - - shale gas deposits are drilled between 6,000 and 10,000 feet – water aquifers exist at an average depth of 500 feet. Now how deep is your well? Remember everyone has a agenda, Hollywood's is a little more obvious. Keep filling them theaters cause their is no shortage of ignorance.
  2. Euler 314
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    Euler 314 - May 27, 2013 8:46 pm
    There are measurable relations between fracking and global warming. A Cornell University study shows fracking is a major source of released methane. The study looks at how much gas is released into the atmosphere, revealing a significant jump in atmospheric methane. Methane, as compared to CO2, has the potential to trap over 100 times more heat over the course of ten years, making fracking one of the most environmentally destructive ways to source energy.

    Read more: Cornell Study Shows Fracking Causes More Global Warming Than Coal | Inhabitat - Sustainable Design Innovation, Eco Architecture, Green Building
  3. Chadwick Snow
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    Chadwick Snow - May 27, 2013 7:33 pm
    First of all, no one is going to drill for oil or gas from shale reserves here because there really aren't any. The fertile area is in southeast Illinois. Second, where gas an oil is extracted through horizontal extensions of vertical pipes is well below the aquifers that serve water wells. The main source of contamination can either come from cracked well casings (there are at least three intersecting pipes in those rigs) or a breached wellhead. What needs to be in place is tight regulations to prevent proximity of wells to water sources.
  4. Chadwick Snow
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    Chadwick Snow - May 27, 2013 7:27 pm
    Great! A tea party movie. That's objective.
  5. Chadwick Snow
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    Chadwick Snow - May 27, 2013 7:24 pm
    How does this relate to fracking? Global warming isn't part of the concern.
  6. ct
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    ct - May 22, 2013 10:15 am
    It was a well that already produced gas from the get go.

    The documentary, and those who seek regulation, point out that prior clean old wells can be altered. The issue is whether a fracking rig can destroy or pollute someone elses well, or a regions water supply without compensation.

    Obviously if frack'ers are drilling for gas, then people drilling for wells will hit it too. Some are willing to live with using that water, most are not.
  7. ct
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    ct - May 22, 2013 10:10 am
    The EPA doesn't endorse it, it doesn't endorse anything.

    It monitors some and seeks out violators of current law.
    Fracking is mostly exempted from all of the Federal Clean Water and Clean Air Acts.
  8. ct
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    ct - May 22, 2013 10:08 am
    Newly Drilled wells can bring up gas.

    The issue noted in the first Gasland movie was long time wells that produced good water started to bring up gas and other chemicals after fracking occurred locally.

    Fracking, having altering the ground below, was polluting wells, and pushing chemicals into the ground.

    If there was a better way to manage it, or non-chemical means were used and well owners compensated, then it is not a big deal, but that is not the case as it makes fracking difficult to profit from.
  9. NormalNews
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    NormalNews - May 21, 2013 4:25 pm
    Plus our gassy water when mixed with Scotch would turn gray/black.
  10. catlbyer16
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    catlbyer16 - May 21, 2013 4:03 pm
    In the late fifty's we had a new water well drilled on our farm. The first hole, turned up natural gas, so it was capped and the driller moved several yards away and drilled a second hole and found a stronger vane of gas. We burned gas from the second well from a four inch casing for 24 hours and it never went out. So we ran natural gas to our house and went back to the first hole and drilled deeper to get water. That water had gas bubbles in it and tasted bad. But if you let all the bubbles evaporate then it would taste better. I used to go out to the cattle tank and after filling the tank I could light those bubbles and it would burn slowly from one end down to the other and then come back to where I started the burning. In high school I mentioned this to a science teacher who did not believe me until she came out to the farm and watched it for herself. I got a 'B' for that six weeks.
  11. J_D_L
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    J_D_L - May 21, 2013 2:49 pm
    If you want to be fed propaganda by all means watch blindly.

    If you really want to be informed check this out. If you are blindly doing as you are instructed by your agenda, by all means carry on.
  12. J_D_L
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    J_D_L - May 21, 2013 2:19 pm
    Whats wrong Pgraph, you delete facts that your own "reporter" is ignorant about?

    Josh Fox admitting that water has been flammable as far back as 1936 in the same area as his "Gasland" doculieantry was based on.

  13. devils_advocate
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    devils_advocate - May 21, 2013 2:04 pm
    Watch GASLAND. That's all I have to say. Was at the premier of GASLAND 2 last night. Watch that also when it's released to the general public.
  14. 9 miles of bad road
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    9 miles of bad road - May 21, 2013 1:49 pm
    UPDATE FROM IL HOUSE COMMITTEE MEETING ON FRACKING 5/21: 80 grassroots anti-fracking citizens show up for hearing and pack hearing room, lobbyists have to stand in the back. GASLAND director Josh Fox testifies, asks legislators to raise their hand if they've ever seen first hand a fracking well pad, none raise their hands. Invites them to accompany him to visit his neighborhood in PA and see first hand. No response from legislators. Bill Rau from IPA testifies on numerous regulatory issues where the proposed IL bill is weaker than other laws or national standards, Republicans smile and Democrats look away at their Iphones. Committee passes bill to House floor.
  15. NormalNews
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    NormalNews - May 21, 2013 1:28 pm
    ct - Having lived in an old farmhouse out by Stanford in my younger days I can tell you firsthand that you can burn the water from all the natural gas bubbling up with the well water. And yes it was an old well. In fact many people in the area capture the gas and use it for cooking, heating, etc. Probably shouldn't have said that because the Democrats will want to tax their naturally occurring gas.
  16. Reasonable
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    Reasonable - May 21, 2013 1:27 pm
    The EPA under three administrations has studied fracking. They (EPA) endorse it as clean and safe with the existing safeguards.
    Oh and by the way, congress did pass a law banning the manufacture of most incandesant bulbs. (except specialty bulbs) It was postponed once. I am not sure of its current state.
  17. ct
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    ct - May 21, 2013 11:50 am
    Drill baby drill, because it has gas prices so low....

    oh wait

    Well it has oil company profits record high!!
  18. ct
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    ct - May 21, 2013 11:49 am
    That doesn't mean it was a good thing

    Look at the booming size and success of Arrowsmith now!
  19. ct
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    ct - May 21, 2013 11:48 am
    I hope a better educated adult is around to help care for you kid.

    Aerosol sprays are banned huh?? No aerosol asthma inhalers exist either??

    The govt telle me what lightbulb to use?? Please tell me which one is illegal because I use all kinds and I'm breaking the law. Are torches still ok??
  20. ct
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    ct - May 21, 2013 11:45 am
    No it doesn't.

    You can hit methane pockets when drilling a new well - or many other things.
    But methane doesn't just appear naturally in any water supply. It doesn't just show up on an old well naturally.

    Of course the whole thing is just a nice eye opener, but a great visual demonstration of how fracking can alter the structure of underground resources, and how its important that fracking doesn't pump dirty fluid underground because it has to go somewhere.

    It is sort of like treating cancer by nuking the patient. Yes the cancer is gone, but the patient is dead too.
  21. ct
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    ct - May 21, 2013 11:41 am

    Fracking causes damage, that's how you get the goods. The issues is how much pollution and damage it causes and who has to pay the price for it.
    There is no reason to HURRY, the shale is not going anywhere, and will still be needed in the future; we have enough superfund sites to clean up.

    And natural gas costs have limited effect except on winter heating for certain portions of the country. And like all fossil fuels there is pollution.

    Of course if you near retirement age, don't have much of a conscience or care about any one younger, then killing the environment to possibly save a buck is not a bad deal.
  22. Question Everything
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    Question Everything - May 21, 2013 9:25 am
    The whole anti-fracking 'movement' is being stirred up by the environmental extremists who don't want us to use ANY fossil fuels. They know that tapping into our natural gas reserves will prevent prices from skyrocketing. Skyrocketing utility prices are what the extremists are counting on so that the heavily subsidized "renewable energy" will be more affordable by comparison. Never mind that natural gas creates FAR less Co2 output than other fossil fuels, that's just not good enough for them. I could go on, but perhaps if you have not been totally hypnotized by the anti-fracking folks, you should start by watching Fracknation (if you are open to actually listening to both sides of this). The McLean County TEA Party has them available to borrow. Their monthly meeting is the first Tuesday of each month at 6:30, at "The Launch Pad" 315 E Front St, Blm.
  23. BC
    Report Abuse
    BC - May 21, 2013 8:45 am
    Question the Asthma manufactures why the meds aren't available in another spray form. The answer is, it was not profitable for them so they blame the government knowing the public is happy to gobble up that nonsense. The government did not ban the other bulbs, 75% of all bulbs are made in China who did ban them. Incandescent bulbs were low profit and again manufactures closed those plants for that reason and blamed the government because the public is dumb enough to buy the story. Dinosaurs became extinct, it is thought, partially due to volcanic eruptions that created much the same conditions man is creating today. Glaciers melted over centuries not at the rate the ice caps are melting today. We have developed so much of our farm land now that we cannot feed our people, we are forced to import. The day a river caught on fire a few people realized corporate America couldn't be trusted to police themselves. A large portion of town and villages get their water from Aquifers, pollute them and the damage is forever. Animals know enough not to s__t where they eat and sleep. Humans not so much, they call it "progress". For most it is going to the extreme when they personally are effected.
  24. raol
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    raol - May 21, 2013 8:29 am
    I understand that methane gas appears in water supplies naturally but what about the man made chemicals that are showing up?
  25. raol
    Report Abuse
    raol - May 21, 2013 8:17 am
    So Methane gas is a natural in some water supplies, what about the chemicals that show up, are they naturally occurring?
  26. coreymattson
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    coreymattson - May 21, 2013 7:39 am
    Most, if not all, of the criticisms of Josh Fox are coming from the gas industry and its front groups. Surprising? It's the same PR campaigns, even some of the same PR firms (Hill & Knowlton), that tried to sell us the lie that cigarettes are safe. It's definitely worthwhile to look at the funding behind "Frank Nation," Energy in Depth, and countless other industry PR fronts.
  27. Proud Conservative
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    Proud Conservative - May 21, 2013 7:08 am
    I cant get asthma meds that work for my kid because the stuff that works came in an aerosol spray...which is now outlawed so we don't hurt the earth. The govt now tells me what kind of light bulb I can use in my home. The EPA holds land owners hostage if those owners want to develop their land. The big deal is the world has always changed. Dinosaurs became extinct...nobody caused it with their SUVs or coal plants. Glaciers that once covered central IL melted...nobody was around using aerosol cans or real light bulbs. You can be a responsible person and respect the earth without going to extremes.
  28. HellsBelle
    Report Abuse
    HellsBelle - May 21, 2013 6:38 am
    I will never understand why people being concerned about the environment upsets certain (usually conservative) people. What is the big deal about wanting to take care of the Earth??
  29. catlbyer16
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    catlbyer16 - May 21, 2013 6:25 am
    When they frack my farm, you may cook and drink the recovered water for a month. Free.
  30. Schleswig-Holstein
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    Schleswig-Holstein - May 20, 2013 8:17 pm
    Shoot! Back in the day the Arrowsmith fire chief would ignite the hydrants. It was cheap 4th of July fun.There many wells in McLean county that have methane.
  31. HellsBelle
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    HellsBelle - May 20, 2013 7:23 pm
    I'd just be happy if you could spell! Hope you're not planning on having children or grandchildren because the world you want us all to live in seems pretty grim.
  32. Proud Conservative
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    Proud Conservative - May 20, 2013 6:49 pm
    Drill baby drill....frack baby frack. This Gasland movie is a hoax, dreamed up by the same kind of people who think 9/11 was an inside job. These creeps will only be happy when we're all living with windmills and smell like Pitchulli.
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