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First permit application revives ‘fracking’ debate in Illinois

By Tim Landis of GateHouse Media Illinois

The first application for a drilling permit has renewed the fracking debate in Illinois four years after the controversial practice was approved. Woolsey Companies Inc, based in Wichita, Kansas, is seeking permission to drill a mile-deep well near the southeastern Illinois community of Enfield, in White County. A second public comment period on the application is expected after the Illinois Department of Natural Resources found a well-location error in the original filing in May. The application is the first since then-Gov. Pat Quinn signed the state fracking law in June 2013. Regulations were not finalized until November 2014 following an extended fight involving the department, environmentalists and energy companies.

DNR spokesman Tim Schweizer said Monday that Woolsey has indicated the application would be resubmitted with the corrected well location and other project details sought by the agency.

They are going to resend the application, and that restarts the clock, said Schweizer. Other than that, it s gone pretty smoothly. In addition to correcting the location, the department has asked for more information on the operations plan, management of fracking chemicals, well safety and containment measures, traffic management at the site, restoration and topsoil preservation and project security bonds. Woolsey vice president of business development Mark Sooter said company officials expected the process to take time, especially since Woolsey is the first to apply in Illinois.

We plan on going forward with the permitting process, said Sooter. There are 27 different forms and plans you have to submit, and there were some things we need to correct.

Fracking has been slow to take off in Illinois as a result of low oil prices that have made it hard for companies to justify the investment in land, equipment, regulatory approval and drilling rights. Fracking relies on high-pressure liquids to release oil and natural gas by fracturing deep-earth shale formations. Woolsey was one of three companies to register for fracking in Illinois after the law was passed. One withdrew voluntarily, and the remaining company has not filed for a permit. Sooter said, while oil prices remain low, the company concluded there was sufficient potential in White County to file for a drilling permit. He added that results of the first well would determine whether the company seeks approval for more.

We ve spent a lot of time and effort and money, said Sooter. Once we get the well drilled, it ll give us a lot better idea of the potential, which we re confident is good. A 30-day public comment period begins seven days after an application is submitted under state rules. Another 15 days are allowed for comments on testimony at the public hearing. DNR has 60 days from the time the application is submitted — including the public comment periods — to make a decision, unless the company asks for an extension.The public comment period on the original application ends Tuesday.

Opponents, meanwhile, have begun preparing their case against the permit.

This caught us off guard, said Dawn Dannenbring, environmental coordinator for Illinois Peoples Action. The Bloomington-based community action group fought for a fracking moratorium before the Illinois rules were approved. Dannenbring said studies of fracking since the Illinois law was enacted show the practice is an even greater threat to water and the environment than first thought.

Those studies come from all over the world. It s not just here, said Dannenbring. We have a number of comments, based on the current application, ready to go. She said fracking opponents also remain concerned about the Illinois approval process, including disclosure of the toxic chemicals used in fracking.

These things happen way too fast, said Dannenbring. It s up to the public to be daily checking the (online application) site and to be ready.

Former Missouri deputy admits bilking library of income

The Associated Press

ST. LOUIS A former St. Louis County sheriff’s deputy faces up to a decade in federal prison now that he’s admitted collecting $95,000 in undeserved income from a library where he worked as a security officer. Alvin Wilson pleaded guilty in St. Louis to theft from an organization that receives federal funds. His sentencing is set for Sept. 22. Authorities say Wilson was employed as a deputy sheriff when he also worked as a St. Louis Public Library security officer from 2012 through last year.

Prosecutors say Wilson falsely reported hours he worked at the library and was paid for them, at times working as a deputy or at home when he was supposed to be providing security.

Jacksonville police capture 3 escaped teen inmates

Jacksonville police have captured three teen inmates who escaped a week ago from a youth detention facility on the city s Northside. Investigators tracking down leads led officers to take back into custody Luther Franklyn Davis, 16, Derek Marquise Browley, also 16, and Justin A. Silva, 15, the Jacksonville Sheriff s Office tweeted out Saturday morning. The teenagers were located together shortly after 10 a.m. on South Old Kings Road, according to the Sheriff s Office.

Police have said the three had escaped about 11:30 p.m. June 18 from the Jacksonville Youth Academy after overpowering a guard. It was the fourth escape in as many months from a state juvenile justice facility in Northeast Florida. The Sheriff s Office previously provided the following account of the escape. Davis asked a guard if he could use the bathroom. Silva called another security guard to the locked door of the room he shared with Browley. Silva is accused of punching a guard in the mouth as he opened the door to talk to Silva. Silva and Browley are accused of then grabbing the guard s keys from the door and running out of the room as Davis fled the bathroom.

The guard who had been punched and two others tried to stop the fleeing teens, but their portable radios fell to the floor during the attempt. The teenagers are accused of scooping up the radios and throwing them at one guard s face, causing an eye to bleed and swell. The guards grappled with the teens, but they used the key to unlock an outside door, then jumped a fence and took off on foot, police said. Another guard had a cut lip from being punched, according to the Sheriff s Office . Browley was in Jacksonville s juvenile facility on three 2017 charges carjacking and burglary in January, and auto theft in April, according to the sheriff s office. Silva s charges include grand theft and violation of probation, while Davis s include auto burglary, auto theft and burglary, both from other jurisdictions, according to Juvenile Justice.

Eleven teens were involved in the four escapes, including eight from a St. Johns County detention center. All of the facilities involved are operated by an organization called G4S Youth Services. After the three Jacksonville teens escaped, the Florida Department of Juvenile Justice said in a statement it takes incidents at its programs very seriously to ensure the safety of both youth and staff.

Juvenile Justice will continue to work with law enforcement, as well as conducting our own investigation of this incident, to confirm that all policies and procedures were followed, the statement said. If policies and procedures were not followed, G4S Youth Services will be held accountable, Juvenile Justice officials said. The Jacksonville Youth Academy is one of 54 facilities for teens under state Department of Juvenile Justice control. Eleven operate in an 18-county Northeast Florida region. It is listed as a structured, non-secure treatment program for up to 24 boys ages 14 to 18 with mental health and behavioral health services, according to the department s website. The average length of stay is three to nine months; the teens ordered there by a judge complete a substance-abuse program.

The academy is run under state contract by G4S Youth Services, which provides what it calls resdential-based juvenile services in Florida, Texas and Tennessee. Formerly a subsidiary of the global security company G4S, the company was sold in April for $56.5 million to BHSB Holdings, a Tampa-based provider of health care services. G4S also operates the Hastings Youth Academy, which saw three inmate escapes between March and May at the facility just west of Florida 207, according to the St. Johns County Sheriff s Office. The sheriff s office had to add a portable observation tower and portable floodlights May 18 after two teens escaped. That escape occurred only weeks after four others escaped. Two of those same boys briefly escaped in March. All were caught.

Teresa Stepzinski: (904) 359-4075