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."

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.