MARION — With hydraulic fracturing likely to begin in Southern Illinois, a grassroots organization is trying to spread word about how it believes the process can damage and pollute the region and its people.
Southern Illinoisans Against Fracturing our Environment held a screening on the film “Split Estate” on Wednesday in Marion in the hope of informing the public of their concerns with the gas extraction process. The film follows families, farmers and ranchers in western states who have been affected by fracking.
SAFE Co-Founder Liz Patula said her grassroots organization aims to make people aware that with fracking set to begin in Southern Illinois, there is a concern about the effects it will have from potential water, air and soil pollution.
Illinois Field Director for Energy In Depth, Kyna Legner, said movies like “Split Estate” are inaccurate and do not tell the whole story.
“It is unfortunate that this film is promoted as objective analysis of this issue when it is riddled with factual error,” Legner said. “SAFE and groups like it are ideologically opposed to shale development despite the fact that their claims have been debunked by state regulators, the EPA, the Department of Energy and countless independent experts. The fact is that shale development has the potential to bring valuable jobs and much needed tax revenue to Illinois.”
Patula said the state and its economy do need energy and jobs, but not at the expense of its people.
“We are really at a fork in the road,” she said. “Of course we need energy and jobs, we need to use the land for profit. This fork in the road is, how are we going to gear our long-term economy? We might have a short boom, but the long-term affects from that could be more devastating.”
Chief among concerns opponents of fracking are the chemicals used in the process, their threat of contaminating groundwater and the health effects on nearby residents. Fracking opponents argue there is not enough regulation of the process, and it is not subject to enough government oversight.
Legner said one of the primary criticisms of SAFE is a lack of disclosure related to hydraulic fracturing. Legner said in fact the public can find out what is being used in hydraulic fracturing on a well-by-well basis at www.fracfocus.org, where more than 27,000 wells are listed.
According to Energy In Depth Material Data Safety Sheets are required kept on-hand at well sites. The sheets contain a full listing of materials involved in the process.
Patula said a 2011 Congressional report examining 750 chemicals used in the process found 652 contained a compound of concern.
“I think the situation is getting pretty urgent,” she added. “We really need to make some decision how we’re going to protect ourselves.”