McLean County government will study easing restrictions on hydraulic fracturing and exploratory drilling for oil. Board Member George Wendt says the U-S needs to find all the domestic oil it can and there is believed to be oil in the southern part of the county.
"Our system of permits to allow someone to do temporary drilling or go after the oil that is in McLean County is quite cumbersome compared to other counties in the state of Illinois."
The County requires a special use permit with more rigorous proofs of environmental safety than some other counties which allow exploratory drilling as an automatically permitted use in agricultural areas. A couple years ago the county denied a special use permit for oil exploration and hydraulic fracturing. Board member John Butler says he feels badly about that.
"You know I talked to him and he says he just got snubbed practically by the zoning board."
Land Use Committee Chair George Gordon says his panel will take up the issue and may hold hearings on injecting fluids and chemicals underground to break up bedrock and liberate oil, known as fracking.
"There are differing opinions and some of them, many of them well founded regarding the safety of fracking."
Board member George Wendt says the technology has improved and is safe. Wendt says with fracking, the U-S would have more oil reserves than Saudi Arabia. Board member Betty Rackauskas says such development could help the county.
"It's interesting to see the fracking process being done in some very depressed areas. It has been an extreme economic boost for those areas. It is serious business and it is something we should look at."
A few county board members expressed concern that fracking could endanger water supplies and pose other environmental concerns. Wendt says the oil believed to be in southern McLean County is far deeper than the water table. County Board Chair Matt Sorenson says they get sporadic inquiries about test drilling every couple years, but have not had anyone actually acquire a permit.
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