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Set fracking safeguards

Published: Sunday, Jan. 19, 2014 5:30 a.m. CDT

Hydraulic fracturing might be the ultimate hot-button issue facing our state, especially the region we so fondly call southern Illinois.

It is considered the doorway to an economic boom by the energy industry, but an ecological bomb by those who strive to protect the environment.

It is not a theoretical dispute. The Illinois General Assembly last year approved regulations permitting and governing hydraulic fracturing in the state. The law allows the process to be used in Illinois, once the process of public hearings and rule-making is completed.

That could add many more months to the six that have elapsed since the passage of hydraulic fracturing regulations. Energy industry officials are concerned about the process becoming too lengthy, which could put Illinois at a competitive disadvantage against other states with energy potential.

Environmentalists, however, feel the process is moving too quickly. Despite the law, some still favor an outright ban against hydraulic fracturing in Illinois. Others support a moratorium that would permit the further expansion and gathering of scientific findings on the controversial process.

There does not appear to be adequate middle ground between the opposing forces. Compromise seems unlikely. The camps are polarized, even in the communities that have the most to gain, or lose, through the use of hydraulic fracturing to seek and release energy.

Proponents say the measure will create thousands of good, high-paying jobs – perhaps as many as 70,000 – in manufacturing, mining, trucking, rail, engineering and road building. It also will create a demand for more housing, retail shopping and consumer services that grows as drilling and oil production expands. Those demands mean new jobs, new opportunities.

Opponents don’t believe the new jobs will be numerous or lasting. They dismiss the scientific claims of energy interests as junk science, findings intended only to support the use of fracking. They see potential for groundwater contamination, the possibility of triggering earthquakes and other ecological risks through hydraulic fracturing.

The law permits hydraulic fracturing in Illinois, but it must be done with every possible safeguard in place and continually monitored for compliance.

The (Carbondale) Southern Illinoisan

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