Though Illinois passed laws allowing hydraulic fracturing last spring, no companies have been able to begin fracking for natural gas yet. While the state works out specific rules and approves companies for permits, one anti-fracking group is taking advantage of the lag. Activists in far-southern Johnson County are hoping a question on Tuesday's primary ballot will succeed. The non-binding referendum asks if voters want county officials to ban hydraulic fracturing.
A Wichita-based company has already leased about 200 properties in Johnson County-- properties that range from empty lots to residential areas. Annette McMichael says at least two of her neighbors leased their properties. McMichael, who's part of the group Southern Illinoisans Against Fracturing Our Environment, is afraid she'll be left with no choice but to lease her property as well.
"Probably the biggest issue that Johnson County voters are concerned about is forced pooling. That means basically, the oil and gas industry can create a district out of adjoining properties, some of which have not agreed to lease their property and force those people to lease."
McMichael says she's worried about the safety of the local drinking water, and also for the water supply. Fracking for natural gas uses millions of gallons of water. However, environmental groups that helped craft Illinois' new law say it includes some of the most strict protections in the nation.
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