A public hearing was held in Enfield last Wednesday at 10 a.m. concerning the recent application that has been submitted by Woolsey Operating Company, LLC to the Illinois Dept. of Natural Resources, Office of Oil and Gas Resource Management for the development of an oil and gas well pursuant to the Hydraulic Fracturing Regulatory Act. This is the first application to be filed under the Act and the regulations. Administrative law judge Dan Schuering of Springfield, Illinois moderated the proceedings, which was attended by 60-70 people.
The site of the proposed well is north of Enfield. The hearing was scheduled to give those who might be adversely affected by the project time to present their views. This statement from the Illinois Oil and Gas Association, sums up their views:
“In 2013, after a highly contentious, lengthy and involved period of negotiations among legislators, state agencies, the Industry, and the Environmental Community, a complex comprehensive statute became law with respect to high volume horizontal hydraulic fracturing operations (the Act). This was followed by comprehensive regulations by the Department with input and participation by the same parties involved with the Act. The state and regulations were agreed upon by all parties, including the Environmental Community.”
It should be noted that it is the policy of the State of Illinois to develop and produce oil and that the White County Board itself passed a resolution on July 11, 2017, supporting the Illinois Oil and Gas Industry and the extraction of oil and gas in an environmentally safe manner at its monthly meeting. All five board members voted in favor of the resolution.
In 2016, Illinois wells produced 8,846,104 barrels of oil. White County led all other counties in production with 1,791,017 barrels, making this a significant component of the White County economy.
Even though their arguments may be most persuasive, most individuals objecting to the application do not reside in a county where there are substantial oil operations. Instead, these are individuals who are philosophically opposed to the production and use of fossil fuels are of the opinion that it should be “kept in the ground.”
The panel from IDNR had chosen three objectors to speak at the hearing, but gave time to one local lady who had initially been refused. Mrs. Harl Weaver from rural McLeansboro stated that her concern was that she did not want her water to be contaminated. The Weavers own 81 acres located three to four miles from the proposed well. The Oil and Gas Association’s report concerning drinking water contamination, states that:
“No fewer than 17 studies by government, academic and regulatory authorities have determined fracking is not a major threat to drinking water. Most notable of these studies is the EPA’s landmark five-year report, which found no evidence of widespread water contamination of drinking water from fracking.”
The next two speakers gave their concerns to increased seismic activity. This comes from the USGS website: “The United States Geological Survey (USGS) states in the very first sentence of its list of myths and misconceptions regarding induced seismicity that ‘Fracking is NOT causing most of the induced earthquakes,’ further clarifying that ‘Wastewater disposal is the primary cause of the recent increase in earthquakes in the central United States.’” (See more information at this link https://earthquake.usgs.gov/research/induced/myths.php)
“California, the nation’s most earthquake-prone state and third largest energy producing stat, has experienced no seismic activity attributed to injection wells or hydraulic fracturing. Of the approximately 42,000 Class II underground injection wells in California, not one has been linked to seismic activity according to geophysicists and state regulators.”
Karen Fiorino of Makanda, Illinois read a lengthy statement. Some excerpts: “…the Guy-Greenbrier area of Arkansas, which experienced only one earthquake of magnitude 2.5 or greater in all of 2007, the numbers grew to 10 in 2009, and in 2010 there were 54 earthquakes of magnitude 2.5 or greater (Kerr, 2012), and on February 27, 2011, a magnitude 4.7 earthquake. Many of the earthquakes were tied to Class 2 injection disposal wells in the area, which were ordered to shut down, and the earthquakes stopped.”
‘Earthquakes have risen sharply in the Midwest in the last decade, a rise that corresponds to the rise in fracturing operations in many states.” See https://www2.usgs.gov/blogs/features/usgs_top_story/man-made-earthquakes/
“Youngstown, Ohio experienced a series of earthquakes in 2011/2012, then a magnitude 4.0 earthquake struck. Gov. John Kasich subsequently ordered that four nearby Class 2 injection well projects be shut down and the earthquakes slowed.”
“Columbia University did a study that showed that “Class 2 injection disposal wells were in operation for at least 18 years, indicating that there can be decades-long lags between oil, liquid natural gas, natural gas drilling wastewater injection and seismic events. It was suspected that over the years, pressure in the wells increased and may have eventually lubricated known seismic faults.”
Fiorino also claimed that the application by Woolsey for the permit was hastily written and expressed concerns that laxity in the application process reflected the same approach in their work ethics. Ms. Fiorino stated that the risk of stimulating the active fault lines in So. Illinois is too great and that money invested in injection wells would be better spent in developing other energy sources.
Barbara McKasson of Carbondale, Ill. and formerly of Oklahoma, stated that “This permit application HVHHF #1 is in actuality a test case for IDNR which will show us all whether or not IDNR is truly prepared to enforce the rules for the High Volume Horizontal Hydraulic Fracturing Regulatory Act. Whether or not IDNR makes Woolsey meet the standards of the regulations in its permit application will be a signal to other companies on what will, in actuality, be required of them. For that reason, I am affected by this proposed well, since a….well could be proposed on property near my home in So. Illinois. In addition, I am in the earthquake zone for effects from the Wabash fault and also the New Madrid fault.”
McKasson went on to cite earthquake statistics, geological studies and her own experience during an earthquake. She was especially concerned with the flow back wastewater. She challenged the Woolsey flow back containment plan. The speakers specifically challenged parts of the Permit Application. They cited deficiencies in the Permit Application Document 5, No. 4 – Failure to clearly identify formation to be stimulated, Nos. 7 and 8 – Missing Identification of a Confining Zone Fracture Pressure and Missing Data on confining Zone Fracture Pressure, No. 10 – Fracturing Pressure of the Production Zone Not Identified and No. 13 – Missing Data on Geological Formations, stating that these deficiencies give one pause on how much Woolsey does not know of the region and are disregarding simple guidelines. The speakers also requested the installation of local seismic monitoring.
The testimony of all was entered into the record. A Mr. Walker, who had been
given permission to speak, was not in attendance.
It is expected that the permit
will be allowed.