Michigan Watch

Investigative
12:00 am
Fri October 1, 2010

Companies seek drilling contracts with landowners: Part 5 (with slideshow)

Hundreds of brokers for oil and gas companies are offering landowners in northern lower Michigan contracts to drill for natural gas. Energy companies are betting the access to deep shale gas reserves will pay off big. But landowners don't always know about the risks.

An exploratory well has produced good results from a new source of natural gas in northern lower Michigan. So, energy companies have hired agents, called landmen to go knocking on doors of private landowners, trying to get them to sign contracts to lease their land for drilling.

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Investigative
12:00 am
Thu September 30, 2010

Keeping an eye on natural gas drilling rigs: Part 4

A natural gas drilling rig in Wyoming. Regulators in Michigan say they're ready to handle more of these drilling rigs.
Bureau of Land Management

A regulatory agency in Michigan says it can handle a new type of drilling for natural gas. That's what regulators in other states said before complaints about water contamination and leaking gas started coming in.

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Investigative
12:00 am
Wed September 29, 2010

Gas drilling draws heavily on water resources: Part 3

Michigan could see more natural gas drilling rigs like these near Pinedale, WY.
World Resources Institute

When the Great Lakes water levels fell a few years ago, people began thinking more about how much water we use. Now, this new kind of drilling, called horizontal hydraulic fracturing, again is causing concern about how we use water.

Water already has been used for vertical hydraulic fracturing in thousands of gas wells in Michigan. It takes about 50,000 gallons to drill each well and fracture shale layers underground to release the natural gas.

Horizontal fracturing, also called horizontal fracking, uses a hundred times more water.

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Investigative
12:00 am
Tue September 28, 2010

New gas drilling raises pollution concerns: Part 2

A natural gas line in northern Michigan.
Lester Graham

Environmentalists are concerned drilling for new sources of natural gas in Michigan could contaminate water. They're basing that on reports from other states that blame a new method of drilling for contaminating their water.

This new kind of drilling is called horizontal hydraulic fracturing. Until recently in Michigan, it was only used in vertical wells. Drill down, pump water, sand and chemicals at high pressure into a layer of shale, fracture it and release the natural gas trapped there.

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Investigative
12:00 am
Mon September 27, 2010

Companies buy up drilling rights in Michigan: Part 1

A horizontal drilling rig in Appalachia
Creative Commons photo by user Meridithw

Michigan could be seeing the beginning of a new boom in drilling for natural gas. Leases for drilling rights are going for unheard of prices in northern-lower Michigan.

Drilling for natural gas in Michigan is not new. The first natural gas production began in the 1930s according to the Michigan Public Service Commission. Since then we've seen drilling booms come and go.

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Investigative
12:00 am
Fri August 13, 2010

Paying for Michigan Schools: More money for schools?

Lester Graham

The way we pay for schools changed a lot back in 1994 when voters passed Proposal A. Before Proposal A, much of the support for the schools came from local property taxes. But voters passed increase after increase and in some districts property taxes got so high that people, especially senior citizens, couldn't afford to live in their homes. Michigan had some of the highest property taxes in the nation.

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Investigative
12:00 am
Thu August 12, 2010

Paying for Michigan Schools: More cuts to school costs

Lester Graham

School districts across the state have been cutting staff and freezing teacher pay to get through budget cuts made by the state.

Iris Salters is President of the Michigan Education Association, a labor union. She says teachers and other school officials are dealing with the cuts, but it's getting to the point where it's affecting the education your kids are getting.

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Investigative
12:00 am
Wed August 11, 2010

Paying for Michigan Schools: Masking problems because of school of choice

Lester Graham

Michigan legislators hear from educators all the time about money for schools. But legislators, for the most part, are not hearing from parents and other taxpayers.

Tom White is with the SOS (Save Our Students Schools and State), a coaltion of education managers, the P-T-A and others. He says until the public really pressures lawmakers with protests, phone calls and petitions (what the legislators refer to as blood in the streets'), not much is going to be done about more money for schools.

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Investigative
12:00 am
Tue August 10, 2010

Blame the economy for school cuts

Lester Graham

Getting your budget cut is no fun, and that's exactly what's happened to schools in Michigan. Generally speaking, educators know why that's happened. Michigan's economy tanked and that's affected the tax dollars coming in for schools.

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Investigative
12:00 am
Tue August 10, 2010

Paying for Michigan Schools: Doesn't the lottery do that?

Steve Carmody

You can hardly find a bar in Michigan that doesn't feature video screens offering you a chance to get rich and help Michigan schools. The lottery has done such a good marketing job of telling players they're helping Michigan schools that people have an inflated idea of how much the lottery money helps.

David Martell is the Executive Director of Michigan School Business Officials. He says it's true the Lottery does help.

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Investigative
12:00 am
Mon August 9, 2010

Paying for Michigan Schools: State and schools can't get budgets together

Lester Graham

Michigan's schools are required by law to have a budget by June 30th. The legislature doesn't have to complete its budget until September 30th. So for the schools, it's hard to figure out a budget when you don't know how much money you're going to get from the state.

"I mean, that's crazy," said Tom White, Chair of a group called SOS (Save Our Students Schools and State), "We don't know until it's so late in our budgeting year, because every year the legislature appropriates funds, but they don't get around to it in a timely fashion.

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