Daily Egyptian

Southern Illinoisans say ‘no fracking way’ to hydraulic fracturing

From+left%3A+Dennis+Connolly%2C+of+Alto+Pass%2C+Jay+Simpson%2C+of+Murphysboro%2C+and+Mike+Janulis%2C+of+Coben%2C+applaud+a+musical+performance+Sunday%2C+Aug.+28%2C+2016%2C+during+Frack+Free+Fest+at+Alto+Vineyards+in+Alto+Pass.+%E2%80%9CIt%E2%80%99s+going+to+be+tough+%5Bfighting+fracking+in+southern+Illinois%5D%2C%22+Simpson+said.+%22It%E2%80%99s+going+to+take+everybody+to+say+that+we%E2%80%99re+not+going+to+allow+it.%E2%80%9D+%28Autumn+Suyko+%7C+%40AutumnSuyko_DE%29
From left: Dennis Connolly, of Alto Pass, Jay Simpson, of Murphysboro, and Mike Janulis, of Coben, applaud a musical performance Sunday, Aug. 28, 2016, during Frack Free Fest at Alto Vineyards in Alto Pass. “It’s going to be tough [fighting fracking in southern Illinois],

From left: Dennis Connolly, of Alto Pass, Jay Simpson, of Murphysboro, and Mike Janulis, of Coben, applaud a musical performance Sunday, Aug. 28, 2016, during Frack Free Fest at Alto Vineyards in Alto Pass. “It’s going to be tough [fighting fracking in southern Illinois]," Simpson said. "It’s going to take everybody to say that we’re not going to allow it.” (Autumn Suyko | @AutumnSuyko_DE)

From left: Dennis Connolly, of Alto Pass, Jay Simpson, of Murphysboro, and Mike Janulis, of Coben, applaud a musical performance Sunday, Aug. 28, 2016, during Frack Free Fest at Alto Vineyards in Alto Pass. “It’s going to be tough [fighting fracking in southern Illinois]," Simpson said. "It’s going to take everybody to say that we’re not going to allow it.” (Autumn Suyko | @AutumnSuyko_DE)

By Marnie Leonard

An environmental activist group hosted a party with a purpose Sunday at Alto Vineyards to raise awareness and protest the practices of hydraulic fracturing — also known as “fracking” — in southern Illinois.

The event was organized by Southern Illinoisans Against Fracturing Our Environment. Live music from several local bands was featured on a stage erected on the sprawling lawn of Alto Vineyards.

“Fracking isn’t banned in Illinois, so at any moment we could potentially see an influx of fracking permits,” said Tabitha Tripp, a board member and founder of SAFE.

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An anti-fracking poster leans against a table Sunday, Aug. 28, 2016, during the Frack Free Fest at Alto Vineyards in Alto Pass. (Autumn Suyko | @AutumnSuyko_DE)

An anti-fracking poster leans against a table Sunday, Aug. 28, 2016, during the Frack Free Fest at Alto Vineyards in Alto Pass. (Autumn Suyko | @AutumnSuyko_DE)

Fracking is a method of retrieving natural gas from the Earth by injecting water, sand and chemicals into shale rock at high pressures.

The process has been said to lead to water pollution and wastage, the release of chemicals and carcinogens toxic to humans and wildlife and the contamination of soil and groundwater through spills of fracturing chemicals, according to the Yale School of Forestry and Environmental Studies.

Brent Ritzel, the event’s lead organizer, said when people misunderstand this environmental issue, fracking seems falsely convoluted.

“What complicates it is the notion that there are two sides to the debate,” Ritzel said. People talk about all the benefits that fracking brings without any concept of the harms that it creates.”

Sam Stearns of McCormick, S.C., relaxes Sunday, Aug. 28, 2016, during Frack Free Fest at Alto Vineyards in Alto Pass. “I’m here to support [Southern Illinoisans Against Fracturing Our Environment] in their battle against fracking in southern Illinois,” he said. Stearns worked in the oil fields during an oil boom in the 1980s. “I know what sort of damage drilling does to the environment and the devastation that it leaves in the communities once the boom is over,” he said. (Autumn Suyko | @AutumnSuyko_DE)

Sam Stearns of McCormick, S.C., relaxes Sunday, Aug. 28, 2016, during Frack Free Fest at Alto Vineyards in Alto Pass. “I’m here to support [Southern Illinoisans Against Fracturing Our Environment] in their battle against fracking in southern Illinois,” he said. Stearns worked in the oil fields during an oil boom in the 1980s. “I know what sort of damage drilling does to the environment and the devastation that it leaves in the communities once the boom is over,” he said. (Autumn Suyko | @AutumnSuyko_DE)

Ritzel said earthquakes are one of the reasons fracking is so problematic.

“We’ve seen Oklahoma go from one or two earthquakes a year to over a thousand, and it’s all because of injection wells related to fracking,” Ritzel said. “This could very well become southern Illinois.”

One of the most active faults in the United States, the New Madrid Fault Line, runs through the region.

Hydraulic fracturing has been found to directly cause a small number of earthquakes in the United States, according to a 2015 study conducted by the United States Geological Survey.

Frack Free Fest attendees form a line outside Haute Wheels Food Truck on Sunday, Aug. 28, 2016, at Alto Vineyards in Alto Pass. (Autumn Suyko | @AutumnSuyko_DE)

Frack Free Fest attendees form a line outside Haute Wheels Food Truck on Sunday, Aug. 28, 2016, at Alto Vineyards in Alto Pass. (Autumn Suyko | @AutumnSuyko_DE)

Eamonn Talkington is a member of the band Dead Pretty, which was part of the Fest’s musical lineup. Talkington listed a passionate concern for the planet as one of his reasons for being involved with the event.

“If you look at places in north Texas, there are areas where they can no longer drink the water at their house because of hydraulic fracturing,” Talkington said of what he called a non-partisan issue. “Around here you’ll see a lot of Democrats and Green Party people and they kind of present this as a divided issue, but it’s not really.

Another big concern SAFE members have with fracking is the harm it could do to southern Illinois’ tourism.

“Driving around southern Illinois, mostly what you see are small farms, rolling hills, small residences, the beauty of the Shawnee National Forest — those would become neighbors to frack sites,” said Lucia Amorelli, a volunteer at the event.

A banner blows in the wind Sunday, Aug. 28, 2016, during the Frack Free Fest at Alto Vineyards in Alto Pass. (Autumn Suyko | @AutumnSuyko_DE)

A banner blows in the wind Sunday, Aug. 28, 2016, during the Frack Free Fest at Alto Vineyards in Alto Pass. (Autumn Suyko | @AutumnSuyko_DE)

Sam Stearns, a member of SAFE, said tourism — particularly the local wine trail — could be at stake as well. 

“People don’t want to have to drive through an industrialized nightmare with poisoned water and poisoned soil,” he said. “They’ll go other places. We have this burgeoning wine industry in southern Illinois, but people will think twice about buying wine from a place where the water is contaminated.” 

Ritzel said the problem can only be solved by getting the community educated about the issues and involved in the political process of banning fracking in Illinois.

“We have to have a say in the destiny of our communities,” he said. “We’re trying to get the state to ban fracking because the only safe fracking is fracking that is not taking place.”

Staff writer Marnie Leonard can be reached at [email protected] or on Twitter @marsuzleo.

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1 Comment

One Response to “Southern Illinoisans say ‘no fracking way’ to hydraulic fracturing”

  1. kay ahaus on September 10th, 2016 7:34 am

    Way to go Brent and Tabitha. I will copy this article and have it for our presentation at Rend Lake in October, Brent. Could we use your canvas map that shows where fracking might occur? Bring it, Brent, if you can.

    So proud to live in Illinois with true conservationists. Kay

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