September 22, 2011

Environmental Groups Call for Public Comment on Dangers of Fracking

Environmental Groups Call for Public Comment on Dangers of Fracking

House Subcommittee has not allowed citizens to give input during hearings

Lansing, MI (22 September 2011) – While the Michigan House Natural Gas Subcommittee held a third public hearing today to discuss a dangerous natural-gas extraction process known as fracking, one thing was once again missing from the agenda: public comment. Although the subcommittee has conducted three hearings this month, no time has been dedicated on the agenda to allow the public to address concerns over fracking.

“Of the nearly six hours the subcommittee has met over the past three weeks, only minutes have been given to address the dangers of fracking,” said Cyndi Roper, Michigan Director for Clean Water Action. “At each of these meetings, the committee has met with natural gas industry lobbyists. When do the citizens of Michigan get the opportunity speak? This committee is short-changing the public by only listening to industry lobbyists instead of doing the kind of fact-finding that will result in strong protections for Michigan’s water, air and the places we live.”

At today’s hearing, over 15 citizens from around the state submitted request cards to the subcommittee chair, Representative Aric Nesbitt (R-Lawton), seeking to speak during public comment. However, none of them were allowed to speak. Today’s meeting is the last hearing currently scheduled by the subcommittee.

“It is very disappointing that citizens are not allowed to address their concerns about a dangerous process such as fracking at a public hearing with our elected officials,” said Jo Anne Beemon of the Friends of the Jordan River Watershed, who traveled from Charlevoix to Lansing to highlight the risks associated with the extraction process. “Michigan’s economy depends on our natural resources, including our Great Lakes and waters. We can’t afford the risks that fracking poses to these invaluable resources.”

After the subcommittee meeting, several environmental groups, including the Sierra Club, Clean Water Action, the West Michigan Environmental Action Council (WMEAC) and Friends of the Jordan River Watershed, held a press conference continuing to call for a fourth public hearing to address fracking concerns.

Their initial call for an additional hearing came last week after Representative Nesbitt repeatedly denied a specific agenda topic at subcommittee hearings, which would have focused on allowing testimony from citizens and groups concerned about the fracking process.

“The Natural Gas subcommittee and Representative Nesbitt should hold a fourth additional public hearing that specifically addresses the dangers that fracking poses to our state,” said Mike Berkowitz of the Sierra Club. “Protecting public health and Michigan’s waters should be a top priority for all of our elected officials. We need to make sure the citizens and their concerns are heard in a public forum.”

Fracking is common extraction process used by the natural gas industry. The process involves blasting a mixture of water and dangerous chemicals deep underground to free deposits of natural gas. However, natural gas companies refuse to publically disclose all of the specific fracking chemicals they use, even though they could be poisoning our water and polluting the air.  

“Michigan legislators should pass legislation immediately that requires companies to publicly disclose upfront the chemicals they are using in the fracking process,” said Nick Occhipinti of WMEAC. “Stronger water and air protections would help protect Michigan’s natural resources and reduce the risk fracking poses to the health and safety of our families.”