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Johnson voters nix fracking proposition

BY DAVID ZOELLER dzoeller@paducahsun.com

Johnson County voters rejected a ballot proposition on the issue of fracking by a 621-vote margin Tuesday.

On the question of, "Shall the people's right to local self-government be asserted by Johnson County to ban corporate fracking as a violation of their rights to health, safety and a clean environment," there were 1,602 yes votes cast and 2,223 no votes. The vote would have asked the County Commission to oppose any effort to begin fracking in Johnson County.

"I'm happy the vote turned out this way," said Ernie Henshaw, a county commissioner. "In my mind this was about the will of the people being heard. This has taken a lot of time. We need to get back to work for Johnson County. We've got some other issues we've got to address."

Henshaw said he would like to see things calm down.

"We've voted, this is how it turned out, now let's move on. I truly hope that is what happens."

Annette McMichael, communications director for Southern Illinoisans Against Fracturing our Environment, said the vote will not deter the organization's going forward. "I would say we were not really too surprised. We were prepared for this outcome. We'll pick ourselves up and decide what to do next ... we're not going away."

Fracking involves blasting rock formations deep underground with water, sand and chemicals to break loose trapped oil and gas. Proponents said it would stimulate the local economy by creating more jobs. Opponents maintain it would endanger public health by contaminating groundwater.

The vote isn't binding but was viewed as a sounding board of the wishes of the county's residents. The Illinois General Assembly passed a law last year permitting fracking in the state. The state Department of Natural Resources is preparing regulations for the industry.

Contact David Zoeller, a Paducah Sun staff writer, at 270-575-8676.

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