A pair of petroleum engineers originally from Altamont told an Effingham County Board committee Thursday that hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, was much less dangerous than opponents make it appear.
Fracking has been a point of contention in many states where it is allowed. But Tom Redmon of Kaiser-Francis Oil Company in Tulsa, Okla., said groundwater contamination is almost unheard of in the fracking process.
"You are thousands of feet away from that water," Redman said.
Redman was joined by Dennis Beccue, another Altamont native who also works in Tulsa. While the company has no plans for the area at this time, Beccue said fracking has been done for decades, with the first commercial fracking operation taking place in 1949.
In the fracking process, air, sand and water is pumping at high pressure into a well. The resultant "fracturing" of the rock enables producers to access oil and gas.
Opponents say the process endangers groundwater and should be banned. But proponents maintain that the process is often necessary to access minerals that would be inaccessible in a conventional drilling operation.
Redman said opponents had an ulterior motive.
"They just want to shut us down," he said. "We want you to make an educated decision, rather than a media-based one.
"There have been some wildly inaccurate depictions of the scale and process or fracking."
It's unclear if the county would have any oversight if the Illinois General Assembly passes a bill that would regulate fracking throughout the state. Several bills related to fracking are pending in the state legislature.
Beccue said the fluid pumped into wells during the fracking process is nearly all water. He added that the percentage of other substances used to facilitate the process is so low that it is not dangerous.
In action taken Thursday, the committee agreed to recommend the full board earmark $2,500 per year out of the Hotel-Motel Fund for maintenance of the multiuse trail west of Effingham developed by Trail Recreation Effingham County (TREC). The earmark will be subject to annual review.
The committee also recommended a budget amendment that would create a Pet Population Control Fund. The $4,500 in this line item would come from spay and neuter fees assessed by the county animal control department.
"We created a fee. Now we need a place to put it," said board chairman Jim Niemann.