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Big Oil, Environmentalists at Odds Over Drilling Tech

In Wayne County, Ill., companies look to use horizontal drilling to access oil and gas deposits underground, spurring environmental concerns.

A new spin on technology used in drilling for oil and natural gas is causing quite a stir in Wayne County, Ill.

Called “hydraulic fracking,” drillers vertically inject large amounts of water, sand and chemicals underground to fracture rock and free up fossil fuels. But the technique can now also be done horizontally through various layers of sediment. The advancement has enraged some environmentalists, who are concerned over the possibility of increased pollution.

A regional group called Southern-Illinoisans Against Fracturing our Environment (SAFE) is rising up to oppose any drilling. According to the Chicago Tribune, six companies are trying to acquire leases from property owners in Wayne County to search for oil and gas deposits.

Liz Patula, a representative of SAFE, told the Tribune that the hydraulic horizontal drilling and fracturing processes are “catastrophic” for the area. The paper reported that SAFE has organized opposition in six counties and is moving to do the same in Wayne County, which is located approximately 270 miles from Chicago.

The oil industry has a different perspective. Steve Everley, a spokesman for Energy In Depth, a project sponsored by the Independent Petroleum Association of America, told the Tribune’s Erin Meyer that hydraulic fracturing “is a safe, proven technology.”

The federal government is looking into the issue. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is putting together a report on horizontal fracturing and drilling next year.

Video: See how horizontal drilling and hydraulic fracturing work.


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