August 11, 2011

U.S. Report Today Triggers Call For Michigan Action Recommendations on Controversial Natural Gas Fracking

Thursday, August 11, 2011

MORE INFO:  Cyndi Roper, 517-490-1394
                         Mike Berkowitz, 248-345-9808

U.S. Report Today Triggers Call For Michigan Action
Recommendations on Controversial Natural Gas Fracking

LANSING, MI--Citizens groups today called on Michigan lawmakers and federal officials to take action on proposals to protect Michigan’s waters following the release today of recommendations from the federal government to reduce public health and environmental impacts of natural gas drilling using fracking.

“It’s great that the federal government is identifying problems with fracking and offering some solutions,” said Mike Berkowitz of Michigan Sierra Club. “But Great Lakes state lawmakers must step up and not leave it just to Washington to protect our waters. We must establish oversight of the natural gas industry here in Michigan.”

A federal Department of Energy advisory panel report released today includes a series of recommendations to develop ‘strong’ regulations on gas drilling. Those regulations include extensive air pollution controls, full tracking of drilling wastewater, disclosure of all air and water pollution as well as chemicals used, and rules that take into account the cumulative impact of the drilling of thousands of wells in certain regions or watersheds. The report release by DOE follows recent disclosure of a federal Environmental Protection Agency report documenting groundwater contamination during the 1980s linked to fracking.  The gas industry has insisted fracking poses nothreat to groundwater, an assertion now challenged by the EPA disclosures.

“While the Obama Administration can take action right now on some of these proposals, the Michigan Legislature and Congress must act immediately as well,” said Cyndi Roper, Michigan Director of Clean Water Action. “The public cannot be adequately protected until Congress and theMichigan Legislature eliminate loopholes for the oil and gas industry in environmental laws.”

As part of the Obama Administration’s national energy plan, DOE established a Natural Gas Subcommittee under their Secretary of Energy Advisory Board (SEAB) to make recommendations concerning environmental and public health impacts of natural gas drilling in the U.S.

This report is the first of two expected to be issued by the Natural Gas Subcommittee; the second report will be issued 90 days from now. The full report and more information on SEAB is available at:
Clean Water Action, Sierra Club and other citizens groups have called for a delay in fracking in Michigan until the state has adopted protections for Michigan’s Great Lakes water system, including groundwater.  The groups have called for the state to take important measures 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 Michigan Legislature must regulate fracking operations to ensure they are safe, including proper disposal of chemical waste and other byproducts of fracking.
  • Require public participation in the permitting process so all of the facts are known before a permit is issued and all stakeholders—including citizens who own wells, fish streams and use drinking water—have the right to be heard.