fracking

World Resources Institute

State officials want to hear what you think about fracking.

The Michigan Department of Environmental Quality wants to update the state’s rules on hydraulic fracturing. The DEQ is holding two public hearings this week on the proposed changes.

Hal Fitch is the chief of the DEQ’s Office of Oil, Gas and Minerals.

“Starting about 2008, we started hearing increased public concerns. So we met with the environmental community, we met with the public in over 200 different forums and heard those concerns and formulated these rules based on what we were hearing,” he says.

Hydraulic fracturing rig
flickr user Eusko Jaurlaritza / http://j.mp/1SPGCl0

What do the people who run Michigan's towns and cities think about the prospect of high-volume hydraulic fracturing, or "fracking" in or near their communities?

A new report from the University of Michigan's Center for Local, State and Urban Policy looks into that question.

In Michigan, only a handful of communities report some type of high-volume fracking operation. It's the controversial process used to extract natural gas by drilling into shale deposits.

The center’s program director, Tom Ivacko, joined us to talk about the results.

*Listen to the interview above.

Watchdog groups wary of proposed fracking rules

May 6, 2014
Hydraulic fracturing rig
flickr user Eusko Jaurlaritza / http://j.mp/1SPGCl0

This story has been updated. 5/9/2014

New rules proposed for oil and gas drilling in Michigan are getting a mixed response, at best, from watchdog groups. The rules would apply to a type of drilling often referred to as “fracking.” Critics say the proposed changes continue to favor the oil and gas industry over neighbors and the public.

The official line in Michigan has long been that drilling for oil and gas is well-regulated and done safely. But many people are not convinced.

Hal Fitch is the head of the Office of Oil, Gas and Minerals. He says they are responding to those concerns.

"We saw some need to make some changes, some improvements, partly because of changing technology, partly because of public concern out there over hydraulic fracturing," he says.

Hydraulic fracturing rig
flickr user Eusko Jaurlaritza / http://j.mp/1SPGCl0

The Michigan Department of Environmental Quality is proposing changes to their rules for oil and gas drilling in the state.

MDEQ leaders say they've had a successful record regulating the practice of hydraulic fracturing in the state for more than five decades, but new practices by the oil and gas industry are leading to the rule changes.

The industry's practice of horizontal hydraulic fracturing, known commonly as "fracking," has allowed companies to extract a lot more oil and gas from the ground.

Bureau of Land Management

"How many of you are here to stop the drilling?" one woman asked the crowd of about 200 at a town forum in Scio Township last night.

Big applause broke out.

It was the first indication that the crowd was not going to be a friendly one for the executives from West Bay Exploration, a Traverse City-based drilling company that has asked several landowners in Scio Township to sign over leases for their mineral rights.

The town forum was billed as an opportunity to "become educated about oil and gas leasing."

Hydraulic fracturing rig
flickr user Eusko Jaurlaritza / http://j.mp/1SPGCl0

Michigan’s Department of Environmental Quality proposed a list of new rules for hydraulic fracturing in the state — commonly known as fracking.

Fracking is a process where developers pump high-pressure streams of water and chemicals into a well to clear a path to hard-to-reach deposits of natural gas.

So just what are these proposed new rules? And what could they mean to the future of fracking in Michigan?

James Clift is the policy director of the Michigan Environmental Council. He joins us to discuss the new regulations.

Listen to the full interview above. 

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In this Week in Michigan Politics, Christina Shockley and Jack Lessenberry discuss Detroit's bankruptcy eligibility trial, Governor Snyder's NERD fund, and new proposed fracking rules.

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Bankruptcy eligibility trial begins today

"A trial to determine Detroit’s fate in municipal bankruptcy starts today. Judge Steven Rhodes will hear arguments about whether the city qualifies for Chapter Nine protection," Sarah Cwiek reports.

Judge says Detroit EM candidate names  should be revealed

"A Wayne County judge has ruled that state officials must turn over a list of possible candidates for the Detroit emergency manager job," Cwiek reports. This comes after a union activist filed a lawsuit saying the state violated the Open Meeting Act when it appointed Detroit's emergency manager Kevyn Orr.

DEQ proposes new rules for fracking

The Department of Environmental Quality has proposed new rules for fracking in Michigan. "The rules will require disclosure of chemicals used by developers, and make it easier for people to track where “fracking” is occurring," Rick Pluta reports


The petition drive is the citizens’ direct route to changing laws. It’s part of the state constitution, Article 2, Section 9 (if you want to read it for yourself). The petition-initiated law is not subject to a veto by the governor. If the Legislature refuses to adopt it, the decision goes to voters as a statewide ballot question.

 

Right to Life of Michigan submitted petitions a week ago to initiate a law that would say people could no longer get abortion coverage as part of a basic health insurance plan. Consumers would have to buy separate coverage to get abortions paid for. The only exception would be an emergency abortion necessary to save a woman’s life.

 

“I had a similar bill that came to me that I vetoed,” Governor Rick Snyder reminded folks after the petitions were filed. “And that was the right answer in my view.”

 

Snyder vetoed this language when it was part of a bill sent to him last year by the Legislature because it did not include those rape and incest exceptions. That’s despite the fact that he has identified himself as “pro-life,” that is opposed to abortion, when he ran in  2010.

 

But not sufficiently so for Right to Life (which endorsed another candidate in the 2010 Republican primary.) Right to Life has a ready response when governors veto legislation it supports. So, once again, Right to Life launched a petition drive to enact as an initiated law what Snyder had vetoed.

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (AP) - A southwestern Michigan couple is suing the federal government over a planned lease of oil and gas development rights in the Allegan State Game Area.

John Davis Jr. and Marybeth Pritschet-Davis filed their lawsuit Thursday in U.S. District Court in Grand Rapids.

They say the Bureau of Land Management plans to auction 27,302 acres of subsurface mineral rights in the Allegan game area Sept. 12. The area hosts endangered and threatened species and also features trout streams, lakes and wetlands.

A judge dismissed a lawsuit seeking to stop any oil and gas drilling on state land in western Michigan.

The area in question is Allegan State Game Area, the Barry State Game Reserve and Yankee Springs Parks and Recreation Area.

Yvonne Zip reports for MLive that a group called "Michigan Air Land Water Defense" filed the lawsuit last October. The group said the state should first assess the environmental impacts of horizontal hydraulic fracturing on public land.

Zip reports that Barry County Judge Amy McDowell said the lawsuit is jumping the gun:

In her opinion, McDowell called the plaintiffs' claims premature, since the leases auctioned were classified as non-developmental, which means that no surface drilling can occur without an application to the state for a change of status.

"As asserted by Defendants, the mere act of leasing oil and gas rights, in and of itself, does not constitute actual or imminent injury," wrote McDowell. "If the DNR initially classified that lease as 'developmental' or 'developmental with restrictions' prior to a review of the impact on protected areas, then this Court may have reached a different conclusion."

So far, no reclassification permit has been sought by a lessee, so the plaintiffs failed to establish "actual or imminent injury," the judge wrote.

Hydraulic fracturing rig
flickr user Eusko Jaurlaritza / http://j.mp/1SPGCl0

As the national debate around horizontal hydraulic fracturing continues, one of the central questions is: what does the practice do to our environment?

Abrahm Lustgarten is an energy reporter with ProPublica. He's covered fracking extensively, and he recently wrote a piece investigating the Environmental Protection Agency's decision to back away from several studies on fracking.

World Resources Institute

The Michigan Chamber of Commerce is getting into the debate over horizontal hydraulic fracturing, or fracking.

Fracking pumps a mixture of water, sand and chemicals into a well under high pressure to force open shale rock formations and extract natural gas. Vertical fracking has been done in Michigan for decades. But horizontal fracking is much newer, and it uses a larger amount of chemicals and millions of gallons of water per well. (For more information, check out Lester Graham's article, "Fracking for natural gas, the benefits and the risks.")

The Chamber of Commerce has launched a campaign they’re calling “Protect Michigan’s Energy Future.”

Hydraulic fracturing rig
flickr user Eusko Jaurlaritza / http://j.mp/1SPGCl0

LANSING, Mich. (AP) — A proposal to drill as many as 500 wells in Michigan's northern Lower Peninsula by using hydraulic fracturing is attracting attention and criticism from environmentalists.

Encana Corp., which has drilled about a dozen wells since 2009, has proposed the new wells, The Detroit News reported, and spokesman Doug Hock says the company is "in the early stages" of new drilling in Michigan.

Until "we do the exploration, we won't know whether we have something that can scale up and be economic," Hock said.

Calgary, Alberta-based Encana is focusing on Michigan's Antrim and Collingwood shale formations, which run from the tip of the Lower Peninsula to the middle of the state. The company's mineral rights are mostly in Cheboygan, Emmet, Kalkaska and Missaukee counties.

World Resources Institute

Democrats in the state House are calling for more state regulations on hydraulic fracturing – or “fracking” in Michigan. Fracking releases oil and gas from deep underground by cracking open rock with a high-pressure mix of water, fine sand and chemicals pumped into wells.

The state has seen an influx of energy producers since companies started using this controversial process to extract natural gas.

Democratic state Representative Sarah Roberts is a co-sponsor of this package of eight bills. She represents the 18th District from St Clair Shores. She joined us today to talk about 'fracking.'

Listen to the full interview above.

Democrats in the state House have introduced a package of bills that would add more state regulations to the process of hydraulic fracturing, or ‘fracking.’ We spoke to a co-sponsor of the legislation on today's show.

And, as the use of meth makes headlines across the state, we talked to one woman about her recovery and what she's doing for other addicts.

And, it’s going to be a hot week for Michiganders. We took a look at what health concerns are related to the increased temperatures.

Also, we spoke with Gary Whelan of the State Department of Natural Resources about what is being done to keep the Great Lakes stocked with fish.

First on the show, the debate over expanding Medicaid in Michigan continues.

Governor Snyder is still pushing for the state Senate to vote on the legislation. It would expand Medicaid to hundreds of thousands of low-income adults in the state. The state House has already approved it.

Over the weekend, Mark Schauer waded into the debate.

Schauer – a Democrat – is running for Governor in 2014. He said on Saturday that he does not understand why Governor Snyder is not calling the Legislature into a special session.

Rick Pluta and Zoe Clark, Michigan Radio’s “It’s Just Politics” team, joined us today to answer Mark Shauer’s question.

Hydraulic fracturing rig
flickr user Eusko Jaurlaritza / http://j.mp/1SPGCl0

Eight Democrats in the Michigan House are introducing legislation to tighten regulations on a practice used by the oil and gas industry known as hydraulic fracturing, or "fracking."

The drilling technique is at the center of national environmental debates. It uses water and chemicals deep underground to harvest natural gas.

User: Brother O'Mara / flickr

U.S. House revisits Farm Bill

United States House Republicans passed a farm bill yesterday that excludes food assistance legislation.  Agriculture and food stamps have historically been a part of the same bill for nearly 40 years. Michigan Radio’s Steve Carmody reports that the Michigan Farm Bureau is disappointed with the status of the new legislation. 

State Democrats increase fracking regulation

Democrats in the state House have introduced eight new bills to increase regulations on hydraulic fracturing in Michigan. The bills do not ban fracking or stop the issuing of permits. According to Michigan Public Radio’s Jake Neher, “the legislation would require natural gas companies to disclose which chemicals they’re using in the fracking process. It would also give local governments more power to restrict the activity.”

Arab-American group sues over bank account closures

Hundreds of Arab-Americans received letters from Huntington Bank notifying them that their accounts have been closed.  Many of these closures came with no explanation. The Arab-American Civil Rights League has filed a $75,000 lawsuit against the bank.

Horizontal hydraulic fracturing has caused a boom in gas drilling in our state and country, but Michigan and the U.S. are certainly not the only places on the planet dealing with fracking. It's starting to be an issue in Europe, as well.

BBC Business reporter Russell Padmore joined us today to talk about how fracking is affecting England, France, Germany, and other countries.  

Listen to the full interview above.

World Resources Institute

Right now we have abundant supplies of natural gas because of what the U.S. Energy Information administration calls robust inshore production, there is a glut of natural gas and that means cheaper gas.

This increased supply is mostly due to hydraulic fracturing - more importantly, a newer way to use the drilling method, horizontal hydraulic fracturing. Horizontal fracking has made it easier and cheaper to extract natural gas and oil from shale deposits in the U.S. and around the globe. Horizontal fracking has meant a boom in gas drilling in the U.S. and it's meant more jobs in certain areas of the country. It’s meant less dependence on foreign sources for energy. And because burning natural gas emits about half the CO2 emissions of coal or oil, it means less of the greenhouse gases that are causing climate change. It also means families can heat their homes more cheaply.

But there are also risks and concerns. The extraordinary expansion of natural gas extraction through this use of horizontal hydraulic fracturing is causing some real concerns about risks to air and water quality.

Andy Hoffman, a professor of sustainable enterprise at the University of Michigan, and Abrahm Lustgarten, a reporter for ProPublica, joined us today.

We continued our look at energy in Michigan on the show. Today, it's all about fracking. Horizontal hydraulic fracturing has led to an abundance of natural gas, but it is also raising a lot of concerns, both in the U.S. and Europe. We spoke with Andy Hoffman, Abrahm Lustgarten, and Russell Padmore about the risks.

And, you've heard of Benton Harbor and Whirlpool, Battle Creek and Kellogg - we explored "company towns" and what they mean for the Michigan economy.

First on the show, the Michigan Campaign Finance Network today released its 2012 Citizen’s Guide to Michigan Campaign Finance entitled “Descending into Dark Money.”

I’m sure you’ll be just shocked, shocked I tell you - to learn record amounts of money were spent with even less accountability for who was spending that money. 

Rich Robinson with the Michigan Campaign Finance Network joined us in the studio today to discuss the issue. 

ipaa.org

For years, Michigan businesses and consumers have enjoyed extremely low natural gas prices.

But that may be changing. And it’s a case of basic economics. 

Natural gas is selling for about $4 per thousand cubic feet in the U.S.

In Europe, the price is closer to $10 per thousand cubic feet. In Japan, the price is hovering over $15.

So it should be no surprise that the energy industry is pushing hard for more exports of natural gas.       

Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio

A new poll shows a slim majority of Michiganders support natural gas fracking, though they want the industry to face more regulations and pay more taxes.

Michigan’s natural gas industry has grown as companies have used a technique called Hydraulic Fracturing, or fracking, to break up shale deposits releasing natural gas.

Critics complain fracking is contaminating drinking water and causing other environmental problems.

World Resources Institute

Opponents of hydraulic fracturing – or “fracking” – are blasting Michigan officials for opening more state lands to oil and gas companies. They held a rally in Lansing today as state officials auctioned the mineral rights for tens of thousands of acres of state land.

Fracking is a controversial process of extracting natural gas from deep underground.

Jim Nash is Oakland County’s water resources commissioner. He says the state needs to do more to protect against possible spills from fracking wells.

"We have fairly strict laws in Michigan, but we only have 22 people that actually do inspections," said Nash. "So it’s mostly self-reporting of incidents. That’s great if you have an honest company. But if you have a dishonest company that’s cutting corners already, they’re not going to report a bad accident."

The state Department of Environmental Quality says companies have been fracking in Michigan for decades without any significant environmental incidents.

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Governor Snyder signs wolf hunt bill

“Governor Rick Snyder has signed legislation for a second time that would permit wolf hunts in Michigan. The governor signed the new law a day before the Michigan Natural Resources Commission is expected to approve a wolf-hunting season in some parts of the western Upper Peninsula. That’s despite a pending referendum challenge to the earlier wolf-hunting law,” Rick Pluta reports.

Bill would keep drunk driving limits the same

Governor Rick Snyder is expected to sign legislation today that will keep the legal limit for drivers’ blood-alcohol content at 0.08 percent.

“The limit is set to revert back to 0.10 percent in October because of a sunset provision in current state law. The state would lose more than $50 million in federal funding for the state's highways if the limit rises,” the Associated Press reports.

Fracking debate intensifies

The Michigan Department of Natural Resources is holding an auction today for state-owned oil and gas lease rights, prompting a heated debate over the expansion of hydraulic fracturing.

According to the Detroit News,

“Armed guards were present a week ago Tuesday at a public hearing held by Michigan's departments of natural resources and environmental quality to discuss drilling and the controversial natural gas extraction process known as hydraulic fracturing, or fracking."

MLive.com reports that environmental groups are planning protests outside the Lansing Center today, where the auction will take place.

University of Michigan

Michigan Radio recently co-hosted a town hall meeting with the University of Michigan's School of Engineering on the future of horizontal hydraulic fracturing in Michigan.

We also live-tweeted the event on hashtag #fracktopia. Here's one of the more revelatory facts that came out of that discussion:

Those are gas wells. Not necessarily horizontally fractured wells. Horizontal fracturing is still in the experimental stage in Michigan. One industry representative at the meeting said "the jury is still out" on whether horizontal hydraulic fracturing in Michigan would be a good investment.

The town hall discussion featured a screening of Fracktopia, a short film about the latest techniques to recover natural gas and oil and their potential consequences. Michigan Radio's Lester Graham then led a discussion and Q-and-A session with the following panelists:

You can watch the town hall meeting in full on the U-M School of Engineering's website.

Just click on the "View On-Demand" link.

michigangreenlaw.com

The University of Michigan is undertaking a broad review of the effects of Michigan’s growing natural gas industry.   U of M researchers met with environmentalists and industry officials today in Lansing.

Most natural gas is extracted using a process called hydraulic fracturing, otherwise known as fracking. There are concerns that fracking might cause health and environmental problems.   But supporters say fracking is helping boost Michigan’s economy. 

(photo by Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio)

A state elections panel today cleared the way for two new petition drives to get underway. The drives will try to put questions on the 2014 general election ballot.

Fred Woodhams is with the Michigan Secretary of State. He says this brings the number of petition drives that have been approved for circulation to three.  He says the first is “a legislative initiative regarding fracking. “  He continued, “There’s a referendum regarding the wolf hunt legislation that was passed last year, and then there’s the constitutional amendment that deals with appropriations bills.”

World Resources Institute

A group that wants to ban hydraulic fracturing in Michigan says the state didn’t follow its own rules in disposing fluid from wells that were fracked. The group, Ban Michigan Fracking, has learned the fluid was spread on public roads close to a lake and in a campground near the Mackinac Bridge last summer.

State officials have said the fluids used to fracture deep oil and gas wells are to be disposed of carefully. Those fluids typically are millions of gallons of water per well plus a mixture of chemicals necessary to the fracking process.

Last summer, the Department of Environmental Quality allowed 40,000 gallons of fluid from fractured wells to be spread on public roads.

World Resources Institute

Yesterday, Governor Rick Snyder gave his “special address” on energy and the environment.

In it, he said it is impossible to ignore the connections between economics, energy, and the environment while talking about subjects like land management, invasive species, and urban farming.

Here are the highlights for those who missed it:

1) Pushing for more natural gas, says Michigan has safe "fracking"

In a section of his speech on Michigan’s energy future, the governor said he was bullish on natural gas.

With regard to the extraction and production of the gas, Governor Snyder suggested that Michigan has been safely hydraulic fracturing, or “fracking,” for a long time.

In his address, Gov. Snyder said "hydraulic fracturing" and "horizontal drilling" have been around for decades.

...some have expressed concerns about what these technologies mean for Michigan’s environment. Neither fracking nor horizontal drilling is a new technology—they have been used in Michigan for many decades. None of the fracking that has been done in Michigan has resulted in a single water quality problem.

What might have been missed in the Governor’s statement is the distinction between hydraulic fracturing and horizontal hydraulic fracturing.

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