High volume fracking has come to Illinois, and environmental groups are gearing up for a battle.
Late last week, the state Department of Natural Resources granted Kansas-based Woolsey Companies a permit to begin fracking at a site in White County, despite cries from environmental groups that the plan was faulty. They're taking the agency to task, saying demanding so little transparency in the permitting process is a gift to potential polluters.
Don Carlson, executive director at Illinois People's Action, said fracking endangers drinking water, increases heavy truck traffic and sets a terrible precedent, because Illinois should be expanding solar and wind energy instead.
"What happens to the chemicals and the injection fluid that's going to be pumped back into the ground?" Carlson asked. "There are questions that have been raised on the containment of those toxic chemicals. How will it affect fresh water in the area of the frack?"
Fracking is the process of injecting chemicals deep into the ground to force natural gas out. Pennsylvania and Oklahoma are seeing negative impacts as a result of the process, including an increase in the number of earthquakes in Oklahoma that critics say are linked to the fracking process.
Illinois has the most stringent rules and regulations in the nation when it comes to fracking, and Mark Sooter, vice president for business development at Woolsey, said those will keep state residents safe.
"We feel that it's necessary to have good rules and regulations and that, by us complying with those, we will be able to protect the concerns that people might have about the environment," Sooter said.
Woolsey plans to drill an exploration well in White County by the end of this year, and Sooter said they'll decide at that point if they want to build more wells.
Carlson said it comes down to the state supporting a private corporation to make money over the needs of the people of Illinois. He said state officials should instead focus on making Illinois a greener placer to live.
"With the increase and the desire to have renewable energy sources - solar power and wind power - fracking is no longer even necessary to meet our energy needs," he said.
Fracking in Illinois has been opposed by groups such as the Natural Resources Defense Council, Sierra Club, Food and Water Watch and Southern Illinoisans Against Fracturing our Environment.