Illinois Oil Producers Doing Good Work In Their Communities

If you are a “downstate” Illinoisan, you have probably seen a pump jack or two nodding up and down somewhere near where you live and are aware there is significant oil production in the state. But a lot of Southern Illinoisans may not know that almost all the folks that drill and pump those oil wells that dot the countryside live in the same communities where they produce. The complete opposite of “Big Oil,” most Illinois oil producers are your neighbors and fellow small business owners. And a vast majority of those local oil producers are also doing good things in their respective Southern Illinois communities. Here are just a few examples.

Carmi-based Campbell Energy – the largest oil producer in the Land of Lincoln – recently received the Carmi Chamber of Commerce “Business of the Year” award in recognition of its service to the White County community.

Jake Campbell and John Campbell of Campbell Energy receive the Carmi Chamber of Commerce “Business of the Year” award.

As former Carmi Chamber president Amber Knight said prior to presenting Campbell Energy with the honor, “This company generously gives to many, many causes in White County. Their name can be seen on the backs of our kid’s uniforms, on banners for events and festivals and helping to keep some of our youth programs alive by donating money and equipment with no recognition at all. The impact that their existence has on our county can be seen in our economy, in our workforce and in our youth.”

Most notably, Campbell Energy recently provided funds and manpower to renovate an abandoned Carmi building into a community youth center.

404 Seed Station Youth Center in Carmi

404 Seed Station Youth Center Computer Lab

Just up the road in Fairfield, Podolsky Oil Company has been giving back to the Wayne County community for years through the Bernard and Naomi L. Podolsky Charitable Trust. The trust has made it possible for more than 900 Wayne County high school seniors to visit Washington D.C. over the past decade, covering roughly 60 percent of the annual trip’s expenses. This has allowed many kids who would otherwise not be able to afford such a trip to visit historical sites such as the Washington Monument, the Lincoln Memorial, the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum and Arlington National Cemetery, just to name a few.

Late Podolsky Oil founder Bernard Podolsky and son and current company president Michael have also been recognized for their various conservation endeavors, most notably earning former Gov. Jim Edgar’s “Illinois Outstanding Tree Farmer of the Year” award in 1991.

Just a little more up the road, Marion County-based Deep Rock Energy has contributed generously to the Kinmundy community in numerous ways, most visibly by largely funding and providing labor and expertise to construct a first-class youth softball facility and playground in the community.

Built on an eight-acre plot near South Central Elementary School, Webster Family Park features two softball fields and a playground. Prior to its construction, there was no softball field in Kinmundy and the community’s school and traveling teams were relegated to taking grounders in the Kinmundy United Methodist Church parking lot. Now, Kinmundy hosts several traveling team softball tournaments a year and its first-class facility has helped the South Central high school program emerge as a regional champion.

“I can’t say enough about what the Webster family has done and we wouldn’t have close to what we have without them,” Kinmundy Area Sports and Youth Opportunities Corporation board member Shawn Garrett said.

Collectively, all but one of Illinois’ 1,500-plus oil producers voluntarily contributes to the Illinois Petroleum Resources Board’s (IPRB) abandoned tank battery reclamation program. These voluntary industry funds have allowed IPRB to clean up more than 500 abandoned tank battery sites throughout state at no cost to landowners or taxpayers, improving the landscape while safeguarding the environment.

To be clear, an overwhelming majority of Illinois oil producers are responsible and properly remove oilfield infrastructure once their leases are no longer commercially productive. But there are some instances in which sites are abandoned for various reasons, most often because the responsible party has passed away. In response, the industry has collectively and proactively stepped up by contributing to this IPRB program that addresses these sites.

Illinois oil producers also contribute to their local communities via annual property taxes on oil reserves known as the ad valorem tax. Those taxes have generated an average of $7.4 million in local tax revenue per year since 2007. This revenue stays in producing counties, going to fund local municipalities and public services. Most notably, more than half of that revenue goes to fund public schools that are located near production sites.

So next time you see a pump jack or tank battery as you’re driving around Little Egypt, keep in mind that it is not only likely those oil production facilities are owned and operated by fellow Southern Illinoisans, but that those local oil operators are contributing to your local community in ways most are not aware of. Because they live, work and play on the same land as they produce on, a vast majority of Illinois oil producers proudly give back to their communities in a myriad of ways.