- Associated Press - Tuesday, May 12, 2015

EARLVILLE, Ill. (AP) - Despite a lack of progress on the project, a small city in northern Illinois still is at odds over a proposed transportation center to ship and store a central ingredient of hydraulic fracturing, also known as fracking.

The Earlville City Council approved a plan by Houston-based EOG Resources Inc., an international oil and gas company, to build a multimillion-dollar facility for silica sand on a 230-acre farm field. Some community leaders, such as Earlville’s school Superintendent Wade Winekauf, also support it because of potential economic benefits, including job creation and increased tax revenue, the Chicago Tribune (https://trib.in/1EAcC1M ) reported.

But a significant amount of residents would prefer progress of a different kind, according to the Rev. Del Keilman of the 163-year-old United Presbyterian Church in Earlville.

The plan has drawn plenty of opposition from people who worry it would present a public health threat to the community. Because the transport center would involve the loading and unloading of silica sand, residents are concerned that dozens of wind turbines in the area will cause the sand and dust to blow throughout town.

“It’ll carry sand over everything,” said Peggy Hanna, an Earlville resident who signed a petition to block the transport center. “For people who have trouble breathing now, that’s going to be really tough.”

Nearly 80 percent of air samples collected at fracking sites in Arkansas, Colorado, North Dakota, Pennsylvania and Texas registered about National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health limits for silica sand, according to a 2012 report by the agency.

After speaking with numerous experts, including environmental engineers and officials in other communities where EOG has established similar facilities, Mayor Mike Hall is attempting to assure residents that the center would be safe.

“I’m confident from my research and the people I’ve contacted and dealt with … that it would be a safe entity for our community,” Hall said.

Mayor Joey Heard of Refugio, Texas, believes it’s too early to tell whether the EOG sand shipping center in the town has damaged the residents’ quality of life, but he said the company does “participate in giving back to the community.”

The center brought 62 jobs to the area, and EOG recently donated money for a new football field and fire truck, he said.

“I’d say we’re better off having that here,” Heard said.

Mayor Hall said the center in Earlville is expected to create 20 full-time jobs and attract other businesses to the area.

But the center also could cause the city to lose existing businesses. Tim O’Reagan, who owns a plastics molding business across from the facility’s proposed site, has filed a lawsuit seeking to stop EOG’s plan to come to Earlville. A court hearing in the case is scheduled for Wednesday.

Earlville is a small LaSalle County community of 1,800 residents about 70 miles southwest of Chicago.

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Information from: Chicago Tribune, https://www.chicagotribune.com

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