Fracking in Southern Illinois

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Annette McMichael
What the Frack?

What do I have in common with Sean Lennon, Lady Gaga & Romania’s Princess Caradja, a decendent of Vlad the Impaler? We’re all fighting the gas industry to save our respective lands and the whole earth from fracking. My fellow Illinois anti-frack activists & I are pushing hard for a 2-year moratorium on fracking in Illinois while further studies are conducted regarding safety and water usage.

(Safe Marion photo.)

Hydraulic horizontal fracturing (fracking) is a gas drilling process that injects water, sand and  toxic chemicals into the ground to fracture shale. This releases oil & gas as well as natural radioactive isotopes, salt & metals found deep underground. Just one well could use up to 30 million gallons of fresh water. At 16 wells per square mile, which is the average in other parts of the country, this would place an impossible strain on our Illinois fresh water systems.

10%-70% of the water and deadly chemical mixture returns to the surface and will never be potable, partly due to its radioactivity & lead content. This flowback is stored in retention ponds or injection wells. Both are accidents waiting to happen. Retention ponds leak. Injection wells crack. Flowback needs to be handled like nuclear waste, but industry refuses to cooperate on this. They refer to flowback as ‘product’ and have even used it as de-icer in Michigan.

Drilling wells are also prone to mishaps. 20% of all wells on the Marcellus Shale, which covers much of Ohio, New York & Pennsylvania have had an environmental ‘event’. That’s the industry’s double speak for ‘Oops. My bad. We just screwed up.’ The industry touts their great record–having improved the accident rate from 53% in 2008 to 21% as of August 2011.

(Incident chart)

There’s an endless list of homes and communities in the USA where water now arrives in trucks instead of wells or municipal supplies. Chemical spills have caused numerous contamination problems. If you want to get really mad at the fossil fuel industry consider these facts…

–The industry doesn’t have to release any information on what chemicals are used or in what quantities. This is considered proprietary information. When a tanker truck carrying flowback went off the road in Ohio recently its entire contents spilled into a stream. But, the drilling company would not release the list of chemical components to county or state  officials. ‘Oops. Sorry about our little event. But, we won’t tell you what poisons were in the tanker.’

–A worker in Pennsylvania suffered severe chemical burns from an accident on a drill pad. The industry refused to give the doctor treating him any information about the chemicals.

–Fracking is not regulated by federal guidelines due to the Halliburton loophole in the Cheney energy bill.

–The industry preys on communities with high unemployment and touts an enormously conflated job creation track record. They’ve estimated 125 new jobs per well, while empirical analysis puts the number closer to 2. These communities are referred to as ‘sacrifice communities’. And there are plenty of them in Illinois.

This gives the frackers the award for the biggest scam now underway in the world. It’s the fight between the gas & oil Industry’s big players who claim this is God’s answer to our energy dependence & those of us who know the truth. Fracking uses up more water than we can afford to share; it causes increased cancer to residents living near drilling sites or retention pits; it holds out false promises to landowners—only 2% ever see a royalty check; the methane gas released in the fracking process is a greenhouse gas worse than diesel or petroleum.

On Nov. 30 SAFE, the only Illinois movement solely focused on fracking, held a rally and general assembly in Carbondale. 200 people attended and most left there ready to fight Big Oil.
Safe’s current strategy is to flood state representatives and officials with calls, letters and emails demanding a moratorium on fracking in Illinois until it can be proven that fracking is safe for the environment and people of IL. Until the process is greatly improved, this is impossible.

I know that the energy companies control the world economic stage. I often feel like those of us fighting fracking are just like Horton’s dust speck. Only Horton has morphed into Illinois General Assembly. And time is running out. We are here! We are here!

This is shaping up to be the biggest frackdown fight this country has seen, yet. The industry is currently running ads in Southern Illinois promoting fracking as God’s answer to the economic struggles facing the people of that region. Frackers are meeting behind closed doors with lobbyists and legislators to hammer out a deal that could permit destruction and devastation to Illinois.

So, what can the tiny little people in Illinois’ version of Whoville do?  First, NEVER feel powerless. There is tremendous power in numbers.
SAFE ( is determined to fight the fracking monster. Sign up for our newsletter online and stay informed. Second, contact your state legislators and demand a moratorium on fracking until a safe process can be developed. Third, come to the Illinois Peoples Action Frack Attack on Sat., Nov 10, 10am, First United Methodist Church, 211 N. School St, Normal, IL. I’ll be speaking along with several other people from SAFE, Illinois Food & Water Watch & IPA. I promise the rally will be fun and informative. Stand with us against the fossil fuel industry. They are the corruption and we are the eruption.

Annette McMichael
SAFE/Outreach Coordinator


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