July 15, 2014

Sierra Club Says Proposed Fracking Rules Leave State At Risk

Citizens To Challenge State’s Proposals At Public Hearings This Week
More Information: David Holtz, 313-300-4454

LANSING—As state environmental regulators hold two days of public hearings this week on new rules to regulate natural gas fracking, Sierra Club today said the proposals fall far short of what’s needed and will put Michigan’s waterways at continued risk unless the state halts the controversial practice. 

“The proposed rules won’t make fracking safe in Michigan,” said Nancy Shiffler, chair of the Michigan Chapter’s Beyond Natural Gas Committee.   “The closer you look the more you see that the state is taking an industry-friendly, hands-off approach toward regulating the use of dangerous chemicals and protecting our waters.  These weak rules just reinforce the need to turn away from fracking and fossils fuels and toward safe, renewable energy sources.”

Shiffler acknowledged that the state Legislature is unlikely to adopt a moratorium on fracking, so Sierra Club will be proposing ways to strengthen the proposed rules when the state Department of Environmental Quality holds public hearings Tuesday, July 15, in Gaylord and Wednesday, July 16, in Lansing.   

Among the rule changes the club is proposing are:

·        Stronger protections for rivers, streams and groundwater from large-scale water withdrawals related to high-volume fracking.  For example, the state’s proposed rues fail to take into account the impact of withdrawals on wetlands, lakes and headwaters.  Access to groundwater — the primary source of drinking water for 44 percent of Michigan residents and nearly all irrigated farms — is becoming a critical issue in several areas of the state.

·        The regulations being proposed do not take into account the cumulative impacts of water withdrawals.  Water used in fracking is permanently removed from the watershed yet the state has no conservation plan in place and is not proposing that water withdrawals be evaluated over any extended period of time to measure the effects on local waterways and groundwaters.

·        Water testing requirements, although improved under the proposed rules, need to be stronger.  They still fall far short of what is needed to protect rivers, streams and groundwaters. 

·        Full public disclosure is needed of all chemicals used in fracking prior to drilling. This would not be required under the proposed rules, creating potential problems for first responders in case of an accident and leaving the public in the dark about risks related to chemicals used in fracking.

Rebecca Estelle-Skeels lives in Kalkaska County and plans to attend the hearing in Gaylord.

“I live next door to a huge fracking site and know first-hand how they operate,” said Skeels, who chairs the Sierra Club’s Clearwater Committee.   “The state’s proposed rules like using swiss cheese for a roof.  They are full of holes and when your safety of your drinking water is at stake that’s just not good enough.”

Sue Kelly, who lives in Brighton, plans on attending the hearing in Lansing.  She and her neighbors have been fighting to keep fracking out of their community.

“It’s not safe,” said Kelly, “and nothing they propose will make it so.  But they didn’t really even try.   It’s pretty clear that the gas industry is in charge in Lansing.”