Vienna & Johnson County News, Sports and Happenings


Opponents of ballot initiative announce formation of committee

Posted February 20, 2014 by Vienna Times in News

Update Feb. 21:  After first publishing this article with the headline “Proponents for fracking announce formation of committee,” the Times was contacted for a correction as the committee emphasized they are neither “for” nor “against” fracking:

First, we made it really clear that our group has nothing to do with being a proponent “for” fracking. We have made it clear that we are open to anyone, whether they are ok with fracking, or even those who think it should be banned, but support legal and legitimate ways to do it, rather than illegal methods that will generate lawsuits. We are not “proponents of fracking” and it is not accurate for the headline to say that.   Second, a “community bill of rights” would not “in effect ban fracking in Johnson County”, in fact, it would have absolutely no impact on the legality of fracking one way or another – that is another major point we are making, and we are telling the truth on this one. County ordinances will have no effect on state law.
–  Zachary Garrett, Financial Officer for Shawnee Professional Services

A coalition of Johnson County residents and local business leaders joined commissioner Ernie Henshaw Wednesday afternoon at Vienna’s public library to announce the formation of their group, Citizens Opposed to Johnson County Fracking Proposition.

Henshaw issued a press advisory Tuesday saying the group is a bipartisan coalition of local city, county, state, business, labor and farming community leaders who wish to “stand up” to what they claim is an out-of-state interest group leading the fight against hydraulic fracturing in the region.

The press conference became a bit heated when Johnson County residents who oppose hydraulic fracturing challenged the claim at the meeting saying it is incorrect. Opponents of hydraulic fracturing have sought a community bill of rights that would in effect ban fracking in Johnson County, something the voters will have a chance to express their opinion on in the upcoming March primary.

Shawnee Professional Services in Vienna president Mitch Garrett said that enacting a community bill of rights would effectively put his company out of business.  Garrett spoke at the Vienna public library Wednesday as part of a group of concerned citizens that announced its formation of Citizens Opposed to Johnson County Fracking Proposition, a group opposing the ballot initiative that seeks to ban fracking in the county.  ~ Joe Rehana | Goreville Gazette

Shawnee Professional Services in Vienna president Mitch Garrett said that enacting a community bill of rights would effectively force his company to relocate. Garrett spoke at the Vienna public library Wednesday as part of a group of concerned citizens that announced its formation of Citizens Opposed to Johnson County Fracking Proposition, a group opposing the ballot initiative that seeks to ban fracking in the county. ~ Joe Rehana | Goreville Gazette

Shawnee Professional Services in Vienna president Mitch Garrett said that enacting a community bill of rights would effectively force his company of 65 employees to relocate to another county. Garrett questioned the intent of the Community Environmental Legal Defense Fund (CELDF) organization, which members of SAFE, Southern Illinoisans Against Fracturing Our Environment, asked to help draft the proposed community bill of rights. Garrett pointed out the legal cost of enacting a local bill of rights could sink the county’s finances, something Commissioner Ernie Henshaw said he would not allow.

“If voting to ban fracking is going to jeopardize us and potentially can put us in a lawsuit, then I will vote no,” Henshaw said.

The Citizens Opposed to Johnson County Fracking Proposition has the support of downstate legislators State Senator Gary Forby and State Representative Brandon Phelps, who each submitted statements for reading at the press conference Wednesday.

Forby said the efforts of CELDF would hurt farmers, local businesses and Johnson County.

“What it would not impact is fracking,” Forby said. “That is regulated by [the] state. If they are successful, we could lose control over the way we do business and farm our land in Johnson County.”

Representative Phelps echoed Forby’s statement saying, “This proposition didn’t originate in Johnson County, it certainly wasn’t written by any Johnson County residents, and it really has nothing to do with fracking. We regulate fracking at the state level.”

The legislators said if Johnson County does not vote “no” on the Fracking Proposition that the area would be turning over “a great deal of power to these out-of-state interests.”

Community organizer with CELDF and Southern Illinois native Natalie Long not only disagreed but also pointed out that should the voters of Johnson County ask their county commissioners to ban fracking through a bill of rights, that it would be written in Johnson County and by Johnson County. Long said that the county commissioners were the ones who asked for the vote to gauge how the people of Johnson County felt about fracking.

Vienna resident and supporter of the community bill of rights Tony Gerard spoke up at Wednesday’s meeting saying the allegations of an out-of-state interest group guiding his or others who feel the same way is incorrect.

“Every time that I go to a meeting, I just look around and see all my Johnson County neighbors,” Gerard said.

The topic of hydraulic fracturing has been contentious since its introduction into the region more than a year ago. Illinois passed legislation last year to create what has been called the “strictest regulation” of the industry in the nation and looks towards its ability to create jobs and restore finances in Illinois. Opponents of the practice say it will damage the environment, poison the air and water and discount the amount of financial security it would bring to the region.

“Everyone in the county says we need something to help the economy because of the high unemployment,” Johnson County Farm Bureau president Lewis Hollis said after the meeting Wednesday. “Well, fracking has already proved that it creates jobs, and if it’s going to create jobs, then why shouldn’t we have it.”

Johnson County will have its opportunity to express its opinion March 18 when voters head to the polls to cast their ballots.


    Myra Wood Bennett

    Interesting one sided reporting on this story. A picture of Mitch is used, doesn’t he own the Times building? Why not pictures of the “out of area” people causing all this fuss? I guess because they are Johnson County residents who would be easily recognized by their neighbors. Fracking does NOT create jobs, they bring their workers in. So disappointing to hear someone from the Farm Bureau supporting this, seems like a bad dream, so confusing! Fracking ruins farm land. And hard to understand how citizen’s rights would ruin Mitch’s business. I mean, I thought citizens had a right to have their land surveyed. What other business is Mitch talking about? And the reporting made it sound like the only people angry at the meeting were the people opposed to fracking. The reporting failed to mention how angry one of the commissioners was that his name had been used in a press release without his knowledge or consent.


      Mr. Garrett does not own the Vienna Times building. I would assume that H&R Media or Lonnie Hinton owns his own office.

      Shawnee Professional Services does more than land surveying; we also provide municipal engineering services, right-of-way acquisition services, and we work with energy companies, including energy infrastructure for oil and gas companies. This does create jobs locally; our company employs people locally. This activity, which would supposedly be banned with a “community bill of rights”, samples of which can be found here:

      Note particularly the Mora County NM near the bottom.

      This links to the organization that is assisting whoever says they are writing this “bill” in Johnson County. Most of them claim to ban a corporation from doing any work on oil and gas, projects, including delivery and infrastructure.

        Myra Wood Bennett

        I’m not disputing what you say, but was told by a very reliable source that the Times building is owned by your father. If that is incorrect, my apologies. Is your organization aware that The Vienna Times has refused to allow the “outsiders” as you refer to them to buy advertising in the paper as you did? And they are not outsiders, they are Johnson County citizens who were going to post their names for readers but were turned away from The Times. The legal defense people were contacted by Johnson County citizens when local citizens were treated in a rude dismissive manner by some of the county commissioners. Let’s make this above board and fair for both sides of the issue. It would be such an example of honor on the part of your group if you would go to The Times and encourage them to allow both sides of this issue to purchase advertising. That is what is implied by “free press”. And there will be no need for lawsuits if commissioners simply follow the mandate declared by voters when they vote yes for citizen rights as other towns and counties have done throughout the United States. There were three explosions just last week throughout different regions of the U.S. caused by fracking. Citizens and voters have a right to know that.

    roy hinkley BABSMAPHD.


    Rhonda Rothrock

    I would suggest that the Honorable Senator Forby and the Honorable Representative Phelps stop drinking the “fracking brings money” koolaid and, instead, try sampling some of the fracking fluid polluted ground water from Pennsylvania and similarly fracked states. (Isn’t it curious that some fracking companies will not release the complete chemical make up of their fracking fluid and that at least one company fracking in Pennsylvania has admitted that they don’t even know what’s in it.) Also, if the State of Illinois is going to support the fracking of Illinois, then the legislators better start figuring out how they’re going to fund the clean-up of the mess that gets left behind once the fracking companies either hit the road or go bankrupt. FYI, Mr. & Mrs. tax payer, it will be you, tax payers always end up footing at least part of the costs of clean-up.


    Who are some of the real “Outside Interests” trying to bring fracking to Johnson County? See anybody from Illinois or Southern Illinois on this list?

    1. Woolsey Energy Corporation
    Wayne Woolsey–One of the grand old men of the Wichita oil and gas industry… He has played a role in ushering in the latest oil boom in Kansas by selling hundreds of thousands of acres of leases to Shell Oil…

    2. Range Resources is an independent oil and gas exploration and production company based in Fort Worth, Texas. Range Resources is an oil and natural gas producer, operating in the Appalachians, as well as the central and southwestern U.S.

    3. Next Energy, LLC filed as a Foreign Limited Liability Company (LLC) in the State of Texas. Jack Overstreet serves as the Governing Person and has interests in other corporate entities including Legacy Energy, LLC located in Englewood, CO.The registered agent for the company is C T Corporation System. Also known as a statutory or resident agent, the registered agent is responsible for receiving legal notifications regarding court summons, lawsuits, and other legal actions involving the corporate entity.

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