natural gas

Politics & Culture
6:18 pm
Thu June 5, 2014

New report gathers opinions on fracking in Michigan

Credit Eusko Jaurlaritza / Flickr

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.

Law
6:00 am
Mon May 5, 2014

State unfolds evidence against energy giants this week in conspiracy case

Credit Wyoming Upper Green River Valley / Flickr

Today lawyers with Michigan’s Attorney General’s office will begin outlining the state’s case against energy giants Chesapeake Energy and Encana Oil & Gas USA.

The allegations stem from an auction for drilling leases on state land three years ago.

In May 2010 an auction of drilling leases brought in $178 million. That’s almost as much as all the revenue from all of Michigan’s leases of public land from 1929 to now, combined.

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The Environment Report
6:36 pm
Wed March 19, 2014

Big energy companies face conspiracy, anti-trust violations in Michigan

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

The state of Michigan alleges energy giants Encana Oil and Gas USA and Chesapeake Energy worked together to get cheaper prices to lease land to drill for oil and gas.

Michigan’s attorney general filed charges against the companies earlier this month. Today, the companies were arraigned on conspiracy and anti-trust violations.

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Politics & Government
2:09 pm
Thu February 27, 2014

Frugal Holland takes on biggest one-time debt for natural gas plant

The new natural gas plant will replace Holland's aging coal fired power plant (pictured).
Lindsey Smith Michigan Radio

The city of Holland will issue $160 million in bonds to build a new power plant. It’s the biggest bond offering the city, the public school district or the city’s publicly owned utility has ever issued.

Holland is home to a huge population of conservatives whose families emigrated from the Netherlands. That's why the city is known for its Tulip Time festival, historic windmill, wooden shoes, and as Holland Mayor Kurt Dykstra puts it, being frugal.

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Business
11:59 am
Thu January 30, 2014

Consumers Energy puts Genesee County power plant project 'on hold'

Consumers Energy is shifting away from coal-fired power plants to natural gas.
Steve Carmody Michigan Radio

Consumers Energy is suspending plans to start building a $700 million power plant in Genesee County.

The utility announced today it will instead buy an existing Jackson County power plant for $155 million.

“You know, frankly, we can look out our windows at our headquarters at Consumers Energy, look east, and see the steam when that plant is operating, which is quite often,” says Dan Bishop, a Consumers spokesman.

The Jackson County power plant has been generating electricity for a decade. As a merchant power plant, it sold electricity on the wholesale market.

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Energy
6:00 am
Mon November 25, 2013

Holland needs air permit for new natural gas plant

The new natural gas plant will replace the DeYoung coal plant in Holland.
Lindsey Smith Michigan Radio

The City of Holland wants to get an air permit so it can build a new natural gas-fired power plant.

People have until Wednesday to tell the state’s Department of Environmental Quality what they think of the plans.

The roughly $200 million dollar power plant would help replace the city’s 70 year old DeYoung coal plant.

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Politics & Government
10:04 am
Sat November 16, 2013

Michigan officials deliver energy policy report

The Lansing Board of Water & Light's new co-generation plant in the foreground. The smokestacks in the background are BWL's older power station.
Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio

LANSING, Mich. (AP) - State officials have submitted the latest in a series of reports that Gov. Rick Snyder says will help Michigan make decisions about future energy policies.

The "Additional Areas" report deals with reliability of electricity, rates and prices, and natural gas infrastructure. Among the material is a section on the role of states versus the role of regional transmission operators or independent system operators for reliability.

Another section covers the linkage between natural gas prices and electricity prices.

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Law
2:00 pm
Sat September 7, 2013

Couple fighting oil, gas development in state game area

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.

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Business
8:50 am
Sat July 13, 2013

Consumers Energy moves forward on power plant plan

THETFORD TOWNSHIP, Mich. (AP) - Consumers Energy is taking steps toward its planned 700-megawatt natural gas-fired power plant in Michigan's Genesee County.

The Jackson-based utility filed Friday for approval of a certificate of necessity with the Michigan Public Service Commission. The filing is allowed under the state's energy reform law.

Chief Executive Officer John Russell says the filing establishes the plant "is in the best long-term interests of Michigan."

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Politics & Government
10:44 am
Fri July 12, 2013

State House Democrats want to tighten regulations on 'fracking'

Fracking is at the center of environmental debates about natural gas drilling.
Credit Eusko Jaurlaritza / Flickr

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.

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Politics & Government
8:53 am
Fri July 12, 2013

In this morning’s news: farm bill, fracking, and Arab-American bank accounts

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.

Politics & Government
12:38 pm
Mon July 1, 2013

New Lansing power plant follows national trend toward natural gas

The city of Holland is planning to move away from coal as it builds a new gas fired power plant.
Holland BPW

Michigan has a new commercial scale power plant; the first new power plant in Michigan in 25 years.

Coal is still the dominant fuel source in the state, but this plant's existence means there will be a little less coal being imported into Michigan.

At the ceremony today celebrating its opening, the Lansing Board of Water & Light sang the new "REO Town" plant's praises:

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Business
11:55 am
Mon July 1, 2013

Lansing's new power plant will reduce greenhouse gas emissions

BWL's new Reo Town co-generation plant (the building on the right) will greatly reduce the workload at the electricity and steam plants (the 3 smokestacks to the left)
Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio

Michigan’s first new utility built power plant in 25 years was fired up today in Lansing.

The Reo Town power plant’s natural gas powered turbines whirled to life this morning.

The $182 million plant will generate electricity and steam for Lansing Board of Water and Light customers.   The plant will generate up to 300,000 pounds of steam for 225 steam customers in downtown Lansing and will completely replace BWL’s Moores Park Steam Plant.   It also will provide 100 megawatts of electricity, about 20 percent of the utility's electric generation. 

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Environment & Science
3:15 pm
Fri June 28, 2013

New power plant will go online in Lansing, Michigan this Monday

Inside Lansing's new gas-fired power plant.
Lansing Board of Water & Light

The Lansing Board of Water & Light say this new power plant will be "the first new utility power plant built in Michigan in 25 years."

Following a national trend away from coal, this power plant will burn natural gas.

According to their press release, the municipally-owned utility expects to cut is greenhouse gas emissions by 50% compared to the coal-fired steam and electric units the new power plant will replace. They list other benefits as well:

- Eliminate the need to burn 351,000 tons of coal compared to the steam and electric units that the new plant will replace.

- Lower mercury and SO2 (sulfur dioxide) emissions by over 99 percent, and NOx (oxides of nitrogen) by over 85 percent compared to the coal-fired boilers that are now retired.

The power plant called the "REO Town plant" will be fully operational Monday.

It's part $182 million project that also includes a headquarters building and a restored Grand Trunk Western Railroad depot for the BWL Board of Commissioners meetings.

The plant is expected to generate up to 300,000 pounds of steam for 225 steam customers in downtown Lansing, replacing the Moores Park Steam Plant. It also will provide 100 megawatts of electricity, about 20 percent of the utility's electric generation.

The Lansing Board of Water & Light offers water, electric, steam and chilled water service to more than 100,000 residential and business customers.

Stateside
5:41 pm
Tue June 25, 2013

Increased horizontal hydraulic fracturing is causing concerns in Michigan

A natural gas well.
World Resources Institute

An interview with Andy Hoffman and Abrahm Lustgarten.

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.

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Economy
2:58 pm
Sun June 16, 2013

Michigan's natural gas prices may rise, depending on decisions to allow more overseas exports

Natural gas prices have been extremely low in Michigan. But will prices stay low?
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.       

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Energy
5:05 pm
Thu May 9, 2013

State auctions mineral rights as 'anti-fracking' groups gather

A natural gas well.
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.

Environment & Science
11:19 am
Fri April 19, 2013

Watch town hall meeting on fracking in Michigan

An image from the short film on fracking shown at the town hall meeting.
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.

Business
11:42 am
Sat April 6, 2013

Some Michigan residents saw lower heating bills this winter

(file photo)
Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio

LANSING, Mich. (AP) - Some Michigan residents saw lower heating bills this winter because of reduced natural gas prices and milder temperatures.

The Michigan Public Service Commission announced Friday that households that use natural gas for heating received lower heating bills. Nearly 80 percent of all Michigan households use natural gas to heat their homes.

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Environment & Science
4:29 pm
Tue March 5, 2013

University of Michigan taking a broad look at the effects of fracking

(file photo)
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. 

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