Southern Illinois residents are bracing for change as the Legislature considers a regulatory bill that could set off a rush to drill for oil and gas. The area includes two counties that have never had conventional oil or gas drilling, and its residents are deeply divided over what it could mean for their way of life. Johnson and Pope counties have some of the Illinois' most remote and scenic areas.
And some say they'd welcome high-volume hydraulic fracturing if it meant more jobs and businesses in a region where both are scarce. Others worry fracking would destroy the area's rugged beauty and that an influx of people would change the character of the area. Some lawmakers support fracking; others are pushing for a 2-year moratorium.