August 22, 2011

Michigan Environmental Groups Caution Touting Only Economic Impact of Natural Gas Drilling

August 22, 2011

Michigan Environmental Groups Caution Touting
Only Economic Impact of Natural Gas Drilling

LANSING – Michigan citizens groups cautioned focusing solely on the economics of natural gas use following the release today of an analysis touting potential economic impact of additional electricity from natural gas in Michigan.
The report, entitled "The Economic Impact of Replacing Coal with Natural Gas for Electricity Production," was undertaken by Professor Bill Knudson, a marketing economist with the Product Center for Agriculture and Natural Resources at Michigan State University. The report did not focus on environmental impacts concerning hydraulic fracturing, or "fracking," which is a natural gas extraction process that uses dangerous chemicals for exploration. Indeed, thousands of contamination incidents from natural gas operations using fracking have been reported nationwide, highlighting the negative consequences the extraction method has on the environment.

"The potential economic benefits of natural gas use could easily be overshadowed and dashed entirely by the negative effects the dangerous fracking process could have on Michigan’s waters," said Cyndi Roper, Michigan Director for Clean Water Action. "We must ensure that we protect our Great Lakes and other water resources. Our waters provide a steady stream of revenue from tourism and support hundreds of thousands of jobs for Michiganders."
Clean Water Action, Sierra Club and other groups are calling for a delay in new fracking operations in Michigan until strong regulations are in place, including implementing public accountability measures and requiring companies to fully disclose all chemicals they plan to use in the process.

"By refusing to disclose the unknown chemicals they inject into our environment, the natural gas industry is recklessly threatening our state’s air, water and public health," said Rita Chapman of the Sierra Club. "The public has a right to know what is in our water and we must hold the industry accountable by establishing safeguards for fracking and preventing further contamination."

Chapman also pointed out that the MSU study failed to factor in any analysis that included clean energy sources such as wind and solar or energy efficiency as a replacement for energy produced now by coal.

Earlier this month, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency announced proposed rules covering air pollution caused by fracking, including significant reductions of emissions of methane, a potent greenhouse gas that contributes to climate change, and air toxins known or suspected of causing cancer and other serious health effects. Michigan’s natural resources are vulnerable to gas drilling activities, and implementing these safeguards will alter the economics of natural gas as an alternative to coal.

"Natural gas drilling is yet another dangerous fossil fuel distraction," said Roper. "Michigan is already creating jobs in the clean energy sector through wind, solar and energy efficiency. Michigan lawmakers should stop clinging to our dirty fuel past and embrace the future or, once again, we’ll be left behind."