The McLean County Board has approved a resolution seeking to maintain zoning authority for oil and gas exploration. (Photo by Eric Stock/WJBC)
By Eric Stock
BLOOMINGTON - McLean County wants to make its own decisions about fracking, a process of extracting oil and natural gas by blasting water underground, rather than leaving it up to the state.
In a resolution unanimously approved on Tuesday, the County Board said it opposes any state measure that would erode local authority over this zoning issue.
The board discussed fracking several times last year but had put the issue on the backburner to avoid being preempted by any new regulations that state might adopt. Fracking is currently governed through the county's special use process where permits are approved on a case-by-case basis.
Negotiations have been ongoing in both Illinois legislative chambers on fracking for months.
"Any sort of drilling or mining, rock quarries, those are things that the county has control over now and as a county with a zoning ordinance with that authority, we legitimately don't want to lose that," Chairman of the county's Land Use Committee, George Gordon (D-Normal) said.
Gordon said Dave Koehler (D-Pekin), Chairman of the Illinois Senate's Agriculture Committee, wants counties to draft formal positions on fracking to help guide the debate at the state level.
Gordon suggested the county share its resolution with officials in other counties in hopes they would adopt a similar stance.
About a dozen members of Illinois Peoples Action, a faith-based group opposed to fracking, attended the County Board meeting. Spokesman William Rau said he supports the county's efforts to try to take control of the fracking issue - out of fear that drillers would have their way with state regulators.
"If it falls to the DNR (Department of Natural Resources) to regulate this, it will be in the industry's hands and we will be unable to control the way in which these resources are extracted in McLean County," Rau said.
Gordon said the County Board hasn't come to consensus about whether it wants fracking or to what extent.
"I don't believe there is support on the County Board for saying under state-delegated local authority we are going to ban fracking," Gordon said, adding he doesn't think there's support for relaxing the special-use permit either. "(That) still makes it possible (to get a permit) but a lot more information would have to be out there," Gordon said.
Eric Stock can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.