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WMEAC does not endorse a permanent moratorium on Fracking in Michigan

May 17, 2012

Last week, the West Michigan Environmental Action Council posted an article on their blog entitled, What We Need to Know About Fracking in Yankee Springs. The blog post was included in their e-newsletter that went out yesterday.

The article was no doubt a response to the growing concern by people who live in Barry County and those who are friends of Circle Pines in the Yankee Springs area over the issue of fracking that could become a reality in the not too distant future.

In fact, at last week’s anti-fracking protest in Lansing, there were several people from Barry County and a few people connected to Circle Pines who came to speak out against the DEQ auctioning of public land for possible oil & gas extraction.

The WMEAC bloggers acknowledge that the land sold in the public auction could allow hydraulic fracking, but then cites the President of Miller Energy Company as saying he doesn’t think, “Yankee Springs will be a successful area for fracking.” Besides not citing any other sources on this matter, why use the President of Miller Energy Company, which has a long history of profiting from oil & gas extraction and a history of global expansion at one point in the company’s history?

The blog posting then provides a brief overview of the history of fracking in Michigan, but only uses the DEQ as a source on this history, particularly Director of the Office of Oil, Gas and Minerals for the Department of Environmental Quality, Hal Fitch. The Michigan DEQ has stated publicly that fracking is safe and for anyone who was at the public auction on Lansing last week, they would be hard pressed to trust anything that Hal Fitch had to say.

However, the most important aspect of the WMEAC blog post was their statement, “WMEAC is not yet ready to request a permanent moratorium on horizontal hydraulic fracturing.”

Instead of supporting a permanent moratorium, WMEAC states that it is supporting some proposed legislation that would “(1) place a moratorium on fracking for two years; (2) provide funding for a study to be done on Michigan fracking and its environmental implications; and (3) require fracking companies to publicly disclose the chemicals used in order to trace chemicals found in water and soil samples to specific companies and wells.”

However, the grassroots group Ban Michigan Fracking has a much more critical view of these legislative proposals.

“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 WMEAC blog piece ends with a list of 7 questions that “still need to be answered” about fracking in the Yankee Springs area. The most important of the 7 questions asked has to do with wanting to know what the environmental track record of the companies that purchased land during the public auction. This would indeed be important information as would any and all information that would provide complete transparency if any fracking were to take place.

What was interesting about the list of question was what was omitted. None of the questions asked had to do with how fracking would impact the eco-systems in the area, the wildlife, the soil and water table of the Yankee Springs area. There was also no question posed about how fracking could impact human health. Instead, several of the questions focused on how fracking would impact recreational activities, tourism and other area businesses.

These might be legitimate questions, but they should not take priority over the well being of human and non-human life in the eco-systems that make up the Yankee Springs area. 

4 Comments leave one →
  1. May 18, 2012 4:14 pm

    Dear GRIID,

    Thanks for the post. WMEAC certainly understands and respects the role of the journalist/advocate – as evidenced by our own wmeacblog.org.

    With the benefit of hindsight it does appear like we could have sprinkled the article more clearly with the certain and potential negative impacts of fracking. Sometimes when you dive deep into an issue, you lose track of the fact that others haven’t taken that same dive yet. In this Blog Post we focused more on the specifics of the auction in Barry County, and gave less background on fracking itself – treating the fracking threat as implicit – and neglecting to fully recount and articulate the broad range of potential environmental and human health impacts. Point taken.

    However, we hope readers took the opportunity to read the WMEAC piece through as it contained important policy details that your article didn’t raise. For example, how WMEAC views fossil fuels (and natural gas) in the broader energy conversation:

    “Despite WMEAC not calling for an outright ban on fracking, it remains true that WMEAC always supports energy efficiency and energy optimization measures first, and then seeks non fossil-fuel, clean energy production second. Only when these options are technologically and economically exhausted should the conversation move to considering natural gas and other fossil fuels – and Michigan is nowhere near that point. Quite the contrary, energy efficiency is the cheapest, cleanest and most quickly deployed source of new energy for Michiganders,…”

    In all complicated issues there is room for divergent opinion. In the case of horizontal, hydraulic fracking, diverse positions are a strength, not a weakness, among environmental organizations in the state of Michigan. While WMEAC has not formally signed on to efforts to ban fracking in Michigan, we support our colleagues, including their right to a different policy position, and efforts to educate the public. WMEAC has invited Don’t Frack Michigan and others to share space at our events. We remain open to communication and dialogue.

    America’s civic discourse has become malignantly polarized. “Opponents” are talking and working together less – contributing to a downward spiral that further divides us – often leading to gridlock that prevents positive action. WMEAC rejects this model. We have a responsibility to participate in dialogue among regulators, industry, and experts to protect our water resources and build more sustainable communities. This responsibility is clearly stated in our organization’s mission, vision and beliefs statements.

    WMEAC values evidence-based advocacy strategies and inclusive decision making that creates trust among diverse individuals and organizations. We have a tradition of changing policy and practice from the inside, working in collaboration with business, industry and community advocates to achieve positive outcomes on behalf of our natural resources and public health.

    We’ve chosen a strategic, pragmatic advocacy approach to ensure the best possible regulatory system for the protection of our natural resources and public health, while respecting and elevating the voices of our colleagues who are taking harder-line positions.

  2. Joshua Sadowski permalink
    May 23, 2012 6:47 pm

    Dear WMEAC rep,

    The fundamental problem with your position is the weight business is given in relation to the environment. This contradicts WMEAC’s Mission, Vision, Values, and Key Focus Areas, which repeatedly proclaim the environment as the primary concern, with business, growth, GDP, etc., nowhere to be found. This raises several questions any concerned advocate for the environment might raise: In the case of environmental protection, should all opinions hold equal weight? Should the interest of business even be considered if it conflicts with the interest of the natural environment, including human AND animal life? If your organization is, as it claims, the leader in environmental protection and action in the region, why are environmental concerns being “balanced” with the growth of business?

    What is the inherent value of the environment? What is the inherent value of business? Which is more important to the West Michigan Environmental Action Counsel? What if the two are at direct odds, who would they support? What if your “pragmatism” leads to poisonous, undrinkable water? If WMEAC compromises on the environment, who is going to protect it unconditionally?

    Of course, these questions are rhetorical. WMEAC has already demonstrated that the interests of businesses hold equal or greater weight than the interests of the environment. In catastrophic state we currently find our environment, this position is egregious and unforgivable.

    Those of us who do not compromise the well being of the environment for business, growth, etc., reject your suggestion that we are contributing to a “downward spiral” of gridlock that “further divides us”. In fact, we suggest that the oppression, violence, and unchecked growth of businesses, corporations, and governments is the very downward spiral which will undeniably lead to an environmental collapse on a scale not before seen. Indeed, this process has already begun, as evidenced by global climate change, mass extinctions, and so on. This is not a matter where compromise and pragmatism are appropriate or beneficial strategies.

    We (environmental activists) cannot compromise with parties who have no interest in keeping this planet alive other than to exploit it for their own profits. Therefore WMEAC, in it’s pragmatic approach, contributes to the destruction of the Earth. You claim you respect our opinion, yet then suggest it is unproductive. We do not respect your opinion, and suggest that it is in fact dangerous.

Trackbacks

  1. MLive, fracking and “balanced” coverage « Grand Rapids Institute for Information Democracy
  2. Report Back from What the Frack is going on in Michigan event « Grand Rapids Institute for Information Democracy

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