May 17, 2011

Citizens Groups: Delay Controversial Natural Gas ‘Fracking’ Process until Strong Safety Regulations are in Place

Tuesday, May 17, 2011
Contact: Leigh Fifelski, 517-999-3646
                Cyndi Roper, 517-203-0754
                Rita Chapman, 517-484-2372 

Citizens Groups: Delay Controversial Natural Gas ‘Fracking’ Process until Strong Safety Regulations are in Place

LANSING – Citizens groups today urged Michigan to delay a controversial method of extracting natural gas until it adopts strong safety regulations and full accountability measures essential to protecting public health and safeguarding Michigan’s freshwater supplies. The drilling process, called horizontal hydraulic fracturing, or “fracking,” is quickly becoming the prevalent method for extracting natural gas.

“If Michigan is going to explore for natural gas, we must do it the right way, with total accountability, comprehensive safety measures and full public participation in order to protect our residents’ health and our drinking water,” said Cyndi Roper, Michigan Director, Clean Water Action. “We must close oil and gas industry loopholes, and make sure we fully protect communities in Michigan from the kind of reckless practices that have led to disastrous consequences elsewhere.. We must make sure that natural gas drilling is done safely and responsibly in Michigan – and that’s why these measures are essential.”

“Michigan citizens have said time and time again: They want more of their energy to come from clean energy sources, such as wind and solar,” said Rita ChapmanSierra Club Clean Water Program Coordinator.  “We must delay all natural gas drilling until we can do it safely and with full transparency. In fact, the natural gas industry should embrace these safety measures and weed out the bad actors who give their industry a bad name. We must not gamble with the health and safety of our water and our citizens.”

The groups called for several important measures to be taken before new natural gas drilling can resume, including the following:
•    Protect Michigan’s water supply by eliminating a special interest exemption from state water use laws so natural gas companies are treated the same as all other large water users in Michigan.  Standards for fracking must be adopted that ensure there are no adverse impacts on our water resources as a result of water withdrawals.

•    Protect water quality by requiring public disclosure of specific fracking chemicals used by natural gas companies when they apply for a permit to extract.  The public’s right to know what is in our water outweighs any corporate claims of confidentiality involving the use of chemicals.  The Administration and Legislature must regulate fracking operations to ensure they are safe, including proper disposal of chemical waste and other byproducts of fracking.

•    Requiring public participation in the permitting process so all of the facts are known before a permit is issued and all stakeholders—including people who own wells, fish streams and use drinking water—have the right to be heard.   (Get full details here.)

“As a citizen, I want our government to start listening to people and our concerns instead of just listening to the oil and gas companies that have completely shut us out of the process,” said M’Lynn Hartwell of Traverse City. “We also call on suppliers, vendors and distributors of natural gas to call on oil and gas companies to embrace these safeguards. Michigan must take tough action on natural gas now.”

“It is time for policymakers to adopt tough safety measures," said Jim Egged of Dearborn. "A delay on natural gas fracking until stronger protections are in place will protect the health and safety of our communities.”