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Ballot Measure Calls To Ban Fracking In Southern Illinois

Amanda Vinicky/WUIS

  A ballot measure before voters in far-southern Johnson County seeks to ban hydraulic fracturing for natural gas. But some advocates worry the proposal’s wording has the potential to confuse voters.

As it’s stated on the ballot, voters can vote yes or no in response to the following question:

“Shall the people’s right to local self-government be asserted by Johnson County to ban corporate fracking as a violation of their rights to health, safety, and a clean environment?”

Annette McMichael is with Southern Illinoisans Against Fracturing Our Environment. The group led the charge to put the question on the March 18th primary ballot.

McMichael says activists have been going door-to-door, preparing voters for what she says is the question's tricky language. Whatever voters decide, the referendum is non-binding.

Already, at least one power company has leased 200 properties in the county for fracking purposes – some of which are residential properties, like McMichael’s neighbors.

She's worried courts will eventually force many more residents to lease their land for fracking, so companies have continuous areas for the extraction process. She says a successful ballot initiative would be the first step in a legal counter move. Proponents of fracking say once it begins, it will boost employment in Southern Illinois.

Wichita-based Woolsy Energy Corp. has already leased about 200 properties in Johnson County — properties that range from empty lots to residential areas. McMichael says at least two of her neighbors leased their properties to Woolsy. She's afraid she’ll be left with no choice but to lease her property as well.

"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," she said.

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.

Hannah covers state government and politics for Capitol News Illinois. She's been dedicated to the statehouse beat since interning at NPR Illinois in 2014, with subsequent stops at WILL-AM/FM, Law360, Capitol Fax and The Daily Line before returning to NPR Illinois in 2020 and moving to CNI in 2023.
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