News Story

Michigan Anti-Fracking Ballot Proposal Would Limit All Drilling

'More information can be found at Hogwarts' than in the film Gasland

Marathon Petroleum Company’s Detroit refinery is the only refinery in the state.

Anti-fracking activists are at work in Michigan, organizing a ballot campaign to ban the practice in this state. Since May they have been working to collect the 252,523 valid signatures required to place the measure on the November 2016 ballot.

Fracking, or more precisely hydraulic fracturing, is a process for extracting oil and natural gas by injecting water, sand and chemicals at high pressure into shale rock below the earth’s surface.

Michigan Capitol Confidential recently communicated about the industry and the proposed ban with Erin McDonough, president and CEO of the Michigan Oil and Gas Association. Before accepting her current position, McDonough was executive director of Michigan United Conservation Clubs.

A future article will get the other side's point of view. The following are the questions asked of McDonough and her responses:

Would the anti-fracking proposal simply ban fracking?

“The proposed language would ban common production techniques that are necessary for all oil and gas wells to be drilled and to operate to their full potential, regardless of whether hydraulic fracturing is used.”

“Banning the use of smart technologies and innovations — like hydraulic fracturing — that enable things to be done better, more efficiently and safer is irresponsible and shortsighted. It would render Michigan, our local producers and our ability as a state to produce our own energy from our own resources off limits. That’s not smart policy, and it flies in the face of some of our most closely held American ideals.”

What’s at stake concerning this issue?

“The consequences are important for Michigan, its energy future and its citizens. Michigan currently is the 16th leading producer state of natural gas and oil. Innovation, including hydraulic fracturing, enables us to hold that position. In the future, we want to be prepared to take advantage of advancements as they occur so that we can continue to supply more and more of our state’s energy needs, while fostering business investment and job growth in Michigan’s energy exploration industry. Technology and scientific advancements are continually evolving and improving the way we do things and our quality of life; why would we want to preclude our use of them in Michigan while others elsewhere take advantage of them?”

“Strong private property rights are among our nation’s most fundamental. They protect the rights of owners to the use and benefit of the property they own. Diminishing, or negating altogether, the potential productivity of natural resources from a property, or under a property, essentially steals the rights and benefits of property owners in Michigan.”

How long has fracking been taking place in Michigan?

“Michigan energy producers have been using hydraulically fracturing techniques for over 60 years to maximize the productivity of underground formations they tap. Over 12,000 wells have used the treatment."

Over the decades have there been complaints and claims that fracking was causing environmental damage in Michigan?

“Hydraulic fracturing has been done safely when conducted correctly, following Michigan’s regulatory standards. This is what accounts for Michigan’s very strong safety record spanning 60 years and 12,000-plus wells. I’m not aware of any claims of fracking-caused environmental damage that have been substantiated in Michigan.”

In other words, for about half a century, there weren’t accusations that fracking posed an environmental threat in Michigan, but within the past few years the accusations started to fly. Have there been specific environmental complaints (i.e., this is where the damage is being done and what the damage is) regarding fracking; or have the expressed concerns just been theoretical and general (i.e., fracking is a bad thing for the environment) in nature?

“Facts matter. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency — after a four-year study that is the U.S. government’s most comprehensive examination of the issue to date — concluded that hydraulic fracturing, as being carried out by industry and regulated by states, isn’t having 'widespread, systemic impacts on drinking water.'”

“In order to maintain this track record, the report also stated that ‘Relentless focus on these issues by regulators and industry is critical.’ Michigan has built a strong regulatory program and record, based on vigilance and diligence that demonstrates the state’s environmentally protective approach to drilling.”

You have a degree in geology; can you explain why fracking doesn’t pose a threat to underground aquifers?

“Hydraulic fracturing is used to make deep underground and very dense rock formations capable of releasing natural gas or oil to a well that is drilled into the formation. These formations are located significantly below the freshwater zones that typically are accessed for drinking water or that support wetlands and other water resources. They also tend to be isolated by other layers of geologic formations that occur above them and which prevent fractures from migrating upward to the freshwater zones. The fracturing occurs in targeted formations, under strict regulatory oversight and with very specific well construction methods that protect groundwater resources.”

“Well construction is a key to safeguarding freshwater zones. Michigan requires that wells be constructed with multiple and consecutive layers of steel pipe and cement that must reach to at least 100 feet below the bottom of an aquifer zone. This prevents natural gas, oil or fracturing fluids from seeping into local water supplies — they travel to and stay in the production pipe.”

“Recent proposed wells would be at a depth of 1,200 feet below the ground’s surface — a distance of about four and one-half football fields.”

What do you think of the anti-fracking online production called “Gasland?”

“More real-world information can probably be found at Hogwarts. A full debunking of Gasland can be found at Energy in Depth’s website: A lot of good, factual and scientifically valid information is available to people; Gasland is not among it, and clearly was produced to entertain, not inform.”

The circulating petition reads:

An initiation of legislation to prohibit the use of horizontal hydraulic fracturing or “fracking” and acid completion treatments of horizontal gas and oil wells; to prohibit emission, production, storage, disposal, and processing of frack and acidizing wastes created by gas and oil well operations; to eliminate the state’s policy favoring ultimate recovery of maximum production of oil and gas; to protect water resources, land, air, climate, and public health; and to allow residents to enforce the provisions of this ballot language, by amending Public Act 451 of 1994 entitled “Natural Resources and Environmental Protection Act,” by amending section 61528, 61529 and 61530.

See also:
Got Cheap Gas? Thank Fracking

False Fears About Fracking

Without Fracking, Oil Prices Would be at Record Highs