Fracking, mining permits would likely sacrifice natural, societal Illinois values

Dear Editor:

I share the concerns in your recent article about hydraulic fracturing of subterranean shales by blasting water mixed with sand and hazardous chemicals into drilled wells, or fracking. Another concern is where does the fracking sand come from? Surely not next to Starved Rock State Park, an Illinois crown jewel with innumerable visitors including school children who learn to understand and treasure natural areas. Yet a local newspaper article recently reported that a Missouri company seems likely to get a permit to mine 300 acres next to Starved Rock for fracking sand. As noted in “Geology Underfoot in Illinois” by Raymond Wiggers (1997) the St. Peter sandstone of Starved Rock covers thousands of square miles in several states. Even if fracking is not soon banned, no shortage of suitable sand is evident and mining other sand deposits will furnish needed jobs.

For our Department of Natural Resources (DNR) to issue a mining permit at Starved Rock likely would violate their official Blue Book “responsibility to conserve, preserve and enhance the state’s natural treasures, while meeting the outdoor recreation needs of Illinois’ large and diverse population.” DNR surely knows a mining permit would bring ear-shattering noise, clouds of dust, skies barren of birds, and near-constant truck traffic the public would have to endure on visits to Starved Rock. And DNR has a shameful record of ignoring for years ecological and environmental issues in granting permits for mining.

DNR must not now be permitted to ignore public concern about sand mining at Starved Rock State Park. We must have the courage to save Illinois from a future as bankrupt ecologically and environmentally as it is today fiscally. Bills can later be paid but loss of natural values is likely forever.

I urge readers to demand from Gov. Quinn and their legislators that no mining permits be issued likely to sacrifice natural or societal values in Illinois. And responsibility for a decision to approve the Missouri company carrying out sand mining next to Starved Rock State Park must be taken by an informed official or council but surely not by unreliable DNR.

Clark Ashby
SIU professor emeritus of plant biology

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