News Story

Analysis: Politics Trumps Science on Great Lakes Drilling

Political posturing is replacing science in decision making regarding natural resources and the environment. The latest example of political posturing on environmental issues is a plan hatched by House Democrats that would ban drilling in the Great Lakes via a series of bills that, if passed by the Legislature, would place on the November ballot a constitutional ban on directional drilling under the Great Lakes. Never mind that Michigan law already does not allow drilling in the Great Lakes, nor does federal law. It is obvious that the reason some are pushing a constitutional ban for something that is already against the law is to score political points by preying on emotion and fear regarding the Gulf oil spill.

The Michigan Environmental Science Board issued a report in 1997 concluding there was little to no risk of contamination from directional drilling to tap oil and natural gas underneath the Great Lakes. Directional drilled wells are located on land at least 1,500 feet from the water. The wells are drilled vertically for 1,000 feet and then diagonally under the Great Lakes to a depth of approximately 5,000 feet. The important distinction is that in contrast to oil wells in the Gulf, directionally drilled wells are not in the waters of the Great Lakes. Even after scientists concluded that directional drilling under the Great Lakes was safe both state and federal lawmakers banned the process.

Sometimes it seems like we are repeating the Dark Ages but with political fear-mongering replacing superstition in trumping science. A future where public policy is primarily shaped by fear rather than relying on the best science is too bleak to contemplate. 


Michigan Capitol Confidential is the news source produced by the Mackinac Center for Public Policy. Michigan Capitol Confidential reports with a free-market news perspective.