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BLOOMINGTON — The McLean County Board is formally opposing any state legislation that would take away local control of such zoning issues as oil and gas drilling, gas and fuel storage, and mines and quarries.

State Rep. John Bradley, D-Marion, currently is negotiating with several stakeholders with an eye toward drafting legislation to regulate high-volume, hydraulic fracturing, commonly called fracking. The process involves pumping water and chemicals into the ground to fracture rock and release oil or natural gas.

McLean County Board Chairman Matt Sorensen said word is a potential bill could give all the control to the state.  

Currently, McLean County requires a special-use permit for drilling in areas zoned for agriculture and restricted manufacturing.  It’s a permitted use in general manufacturing zoning.

Maintaining local control on zoning issues was one of 10 topics on the board’s 2013 Legislative Program, also approved by the board on Tuesday.

About a year ago, County Board member George Wendt suggested the county’s rules discourage oil companies from drilling in the county and asked members to consider a change.

The issue went to the board’s Land Use and Development Committee, which has been gathering information on the topic but has been reluctant to suggest changes until the county knows what regulations will be adopted by the state.

About a dozen members of the Illinois People’s Action attended Tuesday’s board meeting wearing anti-fracking stickers.

Spokesman Bill Rau said the group ideally wants fracking banned in Illinois but doesn’t want the counties to lose their local zoning control.  

Rau said Illinois’ shale field is only 500 to 2,000 feet underground, which makes it too close to the ground water to safely perform hydraulic fracturing.

George Gordon, chairman of the Land Use and Development Committee, said he will share the county’s adopted resolution with other counties for consideration.

Other items the board supports in its legislative agenda include:

- A fee on new paint purchases to pay for proper management of unwanted or unused paint.  

- Removing the sunset date on a 73-cent wireless phone surcharge that helps support the county’s 911 emergency response system.

- Legislation setting a range for county court fees, allowing county boards to set an appropriate fee for their jurisdiction.

- A change in state statutes allowing the county to hold a mortgagee responsible for failure to maintain or secure vacant property during a foreclosure.

The County Board has a contract with Anderson Legislative Consulting Ltd. to monitor and track key legislation of interest to McLean County, provide legislative updates, and help the county draft legislation and amendments. The county pays $7,500 for the yearlong service.

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