The Johnson County commissioners voted Monday at a regularly scheduled commissioners meeting to hold a public dialogue forum on May 8, at the Goreville High School cafeteria on the subject of hydraulic fracturing.
According to a press release issued by the University of Illinois Extension office in Vienna, “The commissioners are seeking public input on the issue of a proposed moratorium on drilling, as well as other comments and concerns from county residents about oil and gas extraction in the county.”
The public meeting is scheduled to start at 6 p.m. and last around 90 minutes with the University of Illinois Extension office acting as moderators for the meeting.
The commissioners said they would seek proponents of the process known as fracking from the oil and gas industry as the group Southern Illinoisans Against Fracturing our Environment (SAFE) said they would be present.
The Illinois group in favor of a two-year moratorium on horizontal hydraulic fracturing in Illinois has sought favor from county commissioners across Southern Illinois to join them in petitioning Springfield to vote in favor of legislation that would halt the practice of fracking in Illinois while additional scientific studies could be completed.
Johnson County has become a part of the larger dialogue in Illinois on the fracking debate as an oil and gas company began leasing mineral rights in the county last year. In the past months, SAFE member Annette McMichael has requested the Johnson County commissioners to join in requesting the state to halt the process, which led to the planning of the public forum.
In Monday’s meeting the commissioners heard from McMichael again and said they would come to a decision after the public forum, wishing to hear from the people of Johnson County who favor and/or oppose fracking.
The Goreville High School cafeteria can hold approximately 200 people and the commissioners said among their goals is for the public forum to be remembered as a civil and informative meeting.
People interested in speaking at the meeting will have roughly three minutes to state their concerns and allow a panel of selected members from both sides of the argument to make their case. Proponents of hydraulic fracturing claim the method is safe and will provide “much-needed” jobs in Illinois while helping to boost tax-based revenues. Opponents of hydraulic fracturing claim the method is in need of regulation as it endangers the environment and leads to health hazards.
Horizontal hydraulic fracturing is under much debate in Illinois as lawmakers in Springfield work to enact policy to regulate the practice. Bills proposed to regulate and/or provide a moratorium on the process have both been entered but not yet voted on in Springfield. These bills will also be discussed at the forum.
The public is encouraged to attend and engage in the dialogue.