January 27, 2014

Statement from Sierra Club On Proposed Oil Industry Sweetheart Bills

Monday, January 27, 2014                 Mike Berkowitz  

Statement from Sierra Club On Proposed Oil Industry Sweetheart Bills
Giant Tax Breaks, Eminent Domain Privileges Considered Tuesday By House Panel

LANSING--Proposals before a legislative panel Tuesday that would give oil and gas companies new powers to construct pipelines on private property over the objections of Michigan landowners--and give new tax breaks to the industry--were strongly opposed today by the Sierra Club Michigan Chapter, which issued the following statement from State Director Anne Woiwode:

 On Tuesday the state House Energy and Technology Committee will hear testimony for the first time on House Bills 4885, 5255 and 5254.   House Bill 4885 would reduce state revenues from oil and gas development by dramatically reducing the so-called severance tax on gas and oil enhanced recovery drilling, including the controversial fracking process. Under the proposed legislation, oil and gas companies would get a 40% break on the oil severance tax, from the current 6.6% to 4% while gas drilling taxes would be reduced by 20%, from 5% to 4%.  This proposed handout to the oil and gas industry not only gives them an unneeded tax break, but encourages drilling activities that threaten our Great Lakes system, putting our waters at risk.  We believe fracking is too risky to continue in Michigan and should be stopped.  Giving tax breaks to the oil industry to encourage more fracking is the last thing Michigan’s elected officials should be considering.  Instead, Michigan lawmakers should take up legislation introduced last year that would strengthen weak environmental protections for fracking and invest more money in environmental monitoring of our water and air and other protections to safeguard human health and our natural resources.

Moreover, House Bills 5254 and 5255 pose an alarming new threat for all local Michigan residents who are facing aggressive oil, gas and related pipeline construction in their communities.   Sierra Club strongly opposes giving new eminent domain authority to private oil and gas companies at the expense of the rights of private property owners and the public.  We call on lawmakers to reject both bills. The proposed legislation would also restrict the amount of information pipeline companies would have to release to the public. The recent expansion of oil and tar sands pipelines in Michigan has led to many private landowners witnessing pipeline construction within a few yards of their homes or businesses.  Giving oil and gas companies more ability to take lands for the transportation of fossil fuels and pipeline development is the wrong decision for Michigan, for clean water, and for property owners.
 The Sierra Club is the nation’s largest grassroots environmental organization, with over 150,000 members and supporters in Michigan.