Drilling prospects spark land rush to Illinois
It's not a festival or the 19th-century architecture that's drawing late-model cars from Louisiana, Texas, Oklahoma and Pennsylvania to the downtown square of McLeansboro, a tiny, southern Illinois community. It's the musty vault inside the county courthouse, where secretive visitors have converged in a hunt for underground riches. For months, out-of-staters known in the business as "land men" have descended on this 2,900-resident city, lining up to comb through bulky books of yellowed property records dating to the 1800s. The aim is to find choice parcels in a veritable land rush tied to the prospect of reaching previously inaccessible oil and natural gas deposits in the region. They're a guarded bunch armed with laptops and legal pads, refusing for competitive reasons to reveal who they're working for. But they confide they're painstakingly pinpointing ownership of rights to a shale formation thousands of feet underground for clients hoping to exploit trendy yet controversial horizontal drilling techniques. "I've never seen this kind of activity," says Mary Anne Hopfinger, Hamilton County's clerk for the past six years. The suddenly intense interest in southern Illinois stems from a belief that the region's New Albany Shale, a formation of rock roughly 5,000 feet below the surface, contains oil and other liquid hydrocarbons that are more rare—and far more profitable—than natural gas. Read the full story from The Associated Press here.
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