Report Back from What the Frack is going on in Michigan event
This is a summary of what was presented and discussed at a forum on the impact of hydraulic fracturing in Michigan at the Bloom Collective this past Saturday.
The forum began by talking a bit about the environmental and health effects of fracking. A useful online resource can be found at Earth Works Action, which provides a hydraulic fracturing 101 page that has good information on toxic chemicals used in fracking. Reference was also made to some recent reports by the US Geological Survey, confirming the toxic contamination of groundwater by hydraulic fracturing.
The conversation then shifted to fracking that was specific to Michigan. First, it was pointed out that the oil & gas industry has been active and aggressive in trying to influence policy through money. A report by Common Cause last November shows that there is not only a surge in money going to politicians at the federal level, but in Michigan as well to influence state policy on fracking. The top recipients of money from members of Congress in Michigan are John Dingell, Dave Camp and Fred Upton, each receiving over $150,000 in campaign contributions.
Michigan legislators and candidates for state office have also received a significant amount of money from the oil & gas industry over the last decade. This money has come from a few primary sources with DTE Energy leading the way. It is also important to note that Wolverine Oil & Gas is a Grand Rapids-based company.
The conversation then shift to where many of the environmental organizations stood on this issue. It was noted that many of the larger groups, such as Clean Water Action, Sierra Club, Food & Water Watch and WMEAC did not support an outright ban on fracking in Michigan. WMEAC, like many of the environmental groups mentioned are instead supporting proposed legislation, which essentially calls for more study on the impact of fracking.
The group Ban Michigan Fracking states:
“The package of bills is a sleight-of-hand, pro-regulatory approach to ensure that fracking for shale gas is labeled ‘safe’ and continues in Michigan,” says LuAnne Kozma of Ban Michigan Fracking. A bill calling for a moratorium is tied to a bill that would initiate a gas industry-funded study and fracking advisory committee, but not the other way around. In other words, the proposed fracking panel and study could go forward even without a moratorium. One of the bills’ key sponsors, state Representative Mark Meadows, revealed shortly after introducing the bills that he is opposed to a ban on fracking.
The recently formed group Ban Michigan Fracking also provides important analysis on each of the three bills introduced that are specific to fracking.
The next thing that was discussed in Michigan is where fracking is taking place across the state and which parcels of land will be auctioned off on October 24 at a DNR meeting in Lansing.
The DNR has a searchable map that allows anyone to look at where in the state the government has listed land as “mineral lease nominations.” The counties in orange are the ones with land up for auction on October 24 and you can see that there are several counties in West Michigan with public land that is up for mineral leasing.
If we looked at a map of Kent County, you can see the proposed sites for mineral leasing that will be auctioned off on October 24 in Lansing. It appears there is a large chunk of public land between Sparta and Cedar Springs. There is also some land near Lowell and along the 131 corridor by Rockford. If you wanted to look at more details of the lands up for auction, the DNR has a detailed document of all the parcels.
It is not likely that residents near these lands that could be leased for mineral rights on October 24 have any idea that hydraulic fracturing could take place near their homes. Such a reality led some at the event to talk about possibly going door to door in those areas to provide information on fracking and organizing informational forums.
The last thing that that was discussed on Saturday was the upcoming DNR land auction in Lansing. People were aware that there is an organized protest for October 24 and they talked about ideas for the protest beyond just having a presence outside the building.