Sports editor

Les Winkeler is sports editor and outdoors writer for The Southern Illinoisan.

Just because something is utterly predictable doesn’t mean it’s not disappointing when the event comes to fruition.

Such is the case with the Illinois Department of Natural Resources issuing a fracking permit to Woolsey Operating Company. The permit is for a site in White County.

It would be nice to have a rational explanation for IDNR’s decision. I haven’t found one.

Sure, there are those who will point to the economic advantages of fracking.

The knee-jerk response from pro-fracking factions is money.

Granted, a few people will make money in the short term …. emphasis on short term. Fracking is a boom and bust industry. The boom in North Dakota sparked wild expansion in towns like Williston. The city grew rapidly and was forced to spend millions expanding and improving infrastructure.

When boom turned to bust, Williston found itself in debt without a revenue stream to pay for new streets and sewer lines. And, that’s the good part.

Fracking is an environmental disaster.

Just ask Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, former CEO of Exxon-Mobil. When a fracking operation required the construction of a water tower near his home, Tillerson objected. Objected to the point he joined a lawsuit citing the negative effects of fracking on his property value.

That is quite a statement.

Fracking has been tied to water contamination. And, this is where the fracking apologists tie themselves into semantic knots.

They like to claim that the actual process of fracturing the rock from which oil is extracted doesn’t contaminate the water. They claim the contamination occurs elsewhere in the extraction process. As if that makes any difference to communities or individuals who have their water supplies fouled by fracking.

That specious argument is moot anyway. In 2016 the Environmental Protection Agency stated fracking can certainly affect drinking water.

And, we’re just scratching the surface of issues with fracking.

The process takes millions of gallons of water, water that has to be trucked into remote sites. The constant truck traffic deteriorates roads. It is a source of constant dust.

The generators used to operate the wells are a source of noise pollution. Drilling sites are frequently illuminated through the night. And, there is the frack fluid, a toxic mix of water, sand and chemicals, including known carcinogens like benzene.

But, in Southern Illinois, the best reason to avoid fracking is the New Madrid Fault.

Prior to fracking becoming commonplace in Oklahoma, the state had few measurable earthquakes. In early August, five earthquakes registering between 2 and 5 on the Richter scale shook the state. Earthquakes have become so common in Oklahoma the state legislature has actually passed laws regulating injection wells. Waste water from fracking operations is injected into the ground because it is too toxic for surface disposal.

Oh, and by the way, it is likely that fossil fuels will be out of vogue in the near future. Renewable energy sources are being developed at a much faster rate than believed possible just a few years ago. It would be nice to see Illinois looking to the future instead of clinging to the past.

So, with that backdrop, the IDNR issued a permit to bring the practice of fracking to our state.

It’s a sad day.

LES WINKELER is the outdoors writer for The Southern Illinoisan. Contact him at les.winkeler@thesouthrn.com, or call 618-351-5088 / On Twitter @LesWinkeler.

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