Fracking talk to stress environmental, legal concerns

Leon Mire, Contributing Writer

The legal and environmental issues facing fracking will be discussed from 6:30 to 7:30 p.m. Wednesday at the Charleston Carnegie Public Library.

Vito Mastrangelo, a retired Illinois public attorney, will present “The New Fracking: Extreme Extraction Dangers,” sponsored by the Coles County Green Party.

Although “fracking” – short for hydraulic fracturing – has been in use for over 50 years, recent techniques have made it more efficient but also more problematic, Mastrangelo said.

Traditional vertical fracking involves putting a well under high pressure to retrieve oil or natural gas underground.

But most people who express concerns about fracking are discussing the new technique, which is high-volume horizontal fracking, Mastrangelo said.

“(The) oil industry developed a way to turn the drill bit horizontally, so that it could go underground horizontally, rather than just vertically,” Mastrangelo said.  “And this allowed them to access oil and gas that was either inaccessible or not efficient to access prior to that.”

The wells often extend a mile or two underground, so they require vast quantities of water to re-pressurize, he said – sometimes as much as a million gallons per well, which can be especially taxing during droughts.

Mastrangelo said another concern is the technique relies on cancer-causing chemicals, such as explosives, machine lubricants and proppants, which keep hydraulic fractures open.

“We know that well casings leak over time, almost all of them do eventually…and of course there’s always going to be accidents above ground where chemicals are spilled,” Mastrangelo said.

Horizontal fracking can also have secondary environmental effects, he said, because of the increased pipelines, land use and truck traffic required.

Aside from environmental concerns, Mastrangelo said he will also focus in his talk on a legal issue many people are unaware of – subsurface trespassing, when a horizontal well is extended under someone’s ground without the consent or knowledge of the landowner.

Coles County Green Party member Keith Wilson said Coles County citizens need to be informed about fracking, because it will probably become more prominent in Illinois after energy prices rebound.

Wilson is especially concerned about President Donald Trump’s rollback of data gathering on leaks of methane, a potent greenhouse gas associated with fracking.

“The citizens need to be prepared to insist that the fracking industry do extraction in an ecologically friendly manner,” he said.


Leon Mire can be reached at 581-2812 or [email protected]