March 15, 2013

Panel discussion to examine hydraulic fracturing

by Pete Rosenbery

CARBONDALE, Ill. -- A panel discussion next week at the SIU School of Law will examine the benefits and risks of hydraulic fracturing in Southern Illinois.

The event is from 4 to 5:30 p.m., Thursday, March 21, in the Hiram H. Lesar Law Building, room 102, at Southern Illinois University Carbondale.  The event is free, and the public is welcome to attend.

The panelists are Brad Richards, executive vice president of the Illinois Oil and Gas Association; Barb McKasson, chair of the Sierra Club -- Shawnee Group of Southern Illinois, and Christopher L. Lant, a professor in the Department of Geography and Environmental Resources and co-director of the Environmental Resources and Policy doctoral program at SIU Carbondale.

Media Advisory

Reporters, photographers and camera crews are welcome to cover the program at the SIU School of Law.  For more information or to arrange interviews, contact Alicia Ruiz, the law school’s director of communication and outreach, at 618/453-8700.

Patricia Ross McCubbin, law professor and faculty adviser for the SIU Environmental Law Society, will moderate the panel discussion. The event will include about a 45-minute question-and-answer session.

McCubbin hopes the discussion gives additional information and perspective to area residents on the issues involved in hydraulic fracturing, or fracking. The process involves a high-pressure mix of water, sand or gravel, and chemicals to break rock formations to then release oil and natural gas.  Opponents, however, express environmental and health concerns about the effects the process can have on ground water, air quality and surface contamination.

Hydraulic fracturing has been at issue in other states including Pennsylvania and New York for several years, and is now receiving attention in Illinois, McCubbin said.  Proposed legislation currently in the Illinois General Assembly would set up some of the strictest regulations in the nation, but earlier this week, House Speaker Michael Madigan, D-Chicago, said he supports a moratorium on hydraulic fracturing rather than regulations.

The presentation is not strictly about the proposed legislation, but the environmental and policy issues fracking raises, McCubbin said.  Four students who are part of the Environmental Law Society -- third-year law student Annie Mergen, and second-year law students Connor Singleton, Joshua Shirley, and Eric Wilber -- spearheaded setting up the panel discussion and took the initiative to arrange the speakers. 

“I’m very proud of them,” she said.  “It shows they are paying attention to the types of issues that are really important in environmental law these days and they have great initiative to find great speakers.  They really deserve a lot of credit.”