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Posted on Mon, Nov 7, 2011 : 6:41 p.m.

Jeff Irwin: 'Pure Michigan legacy could be severely damaged' if state fails to address fracking

By Ryan J. Stanton

State Rep. Jeff Irwin, D-Ann Arbor, joined other Democrats in Lansing Monday in urging House Republicans to take action to protect Michigan waters from fracking.

"Michigan's esteemed Pure Michigan legacy could be severely damaged if our state fails to adequately address the dangers of the fracking industry," Irwin said in a statement.

Hydraulic fracturing, often called fracking, is a controversial procedure that oil and gas companies use to drill for methane gas. Drillers inject sand, water and chemicals into the ground to open pre-existing rock fractures and extract the natural gas below.


Jeff Irwin

"Fracking wells in Michigan require a tremendous amount of water," Irwin said. "Oil and gas companies must be accountable for how much water they are using and they shouldn't be allowed to drain nearby streams, rivers or neighboring wells for their financial benefit."

Irwin is one of the sponsors of House Bills 5149-5151 and 4736, which were introduced to protect Michigan's water and air from fracking. State Rep. David Rutledge, D-Superior Township, also is supporting the legislation.

According to sponsors, the proposed package of bills would:

  • Pause fracking by prohibiting the state from issuing permits until further research on the environmental risks is done
  • Close a loophole on exemption status for the natural gas industry, requiring companies to comply with existing state water withdrawal regulations
  • Require the departments of Environmental Quality and Natural Resources, with input from the public, to undertake a comprehensive study of the public health, environmental, and natural resource impacts associated with the extraction of natural gas from shale formations in the state using hydraulic fracturing
  • Require full upfront disclosure of chemicals being used in fracking operations in Michigan
  • Establish a presumption of liability for a fracking operation if chemicals used in that operation are found in nearby groundwater


Rick Olson

State Rep. Rick Olson, R-York Township, today criticized the legislation, arguing it will prevent any future natural gas exploration in Michigan until a report is completed and reviewed at length. He said 2015 is likely the earliest any permit could be issued.

"As we always say in Lansing, our No. 1 priority is jobs, jobs, jobs. This package of bills runs completely contrary to that mission," Olson said in a statement.

The Protect Michigan Waters from Fracking campaign is supported by Clean Water Action, Sierra Club, West Michigan Environmental Action Council, Friends of the Jordan River Watershed, North Michigan Environmental Action Council, Lone Tree Council and the Michigan Student Sustainability Coalition.

House Bills 5149-5151 were introduced on Thursday. Additional legislation on chemical disclosure is expected later this week.

"The common-sense solutions in this package of bills will push pause on fracking and ensure safeguards are in place to better protect public health and our natural resources," Cyndi Roper of Clean Water Action said in a statement. "By requiring the full disclosure of chemicals used in the fracking process and enacting stronger water and air protections, we are reducing the risks fracking poses to Michigan's water, including the Great Lakes."

Ryan J. Stanton covers government and politics for Reach him at or 734-623-2529. You also can follow him on Twitter or subscribe to's e-mail newsletters.



Thu, Nov 10, 2011 : 6:06 p.m.

Eddie- Solyndra was one the highest cost manufacturers. You are correct, China is engaging in unfair trade, but Solyndra would have gone under just facing US competition. Democrats and Republicans are equally poor at investing our money. It's not a tea party issue, it's an American issue.

E. Manuel Goldstein

Wed, Nov 9, 2011 : 1:21 a.m.

This may be only anecdotal evidence, but here goes: I have a long-time friend who lives in upstate NY, close to the PA border, who sold his mineral rights about 15 years ago. He gets paid by a natural gas firm, to the tune of about $15,000 per year for his 20 acres. I don't know how long he receives these payments into the future. His water in his house is drawn from a well, and now smells so much of sulfur it could make one nauseous. He tells me he made a huge mistake by selling his mineral rights, because he can't replace the water source, and filters just don't do the job of making it palatable. Clothing washed in the water smells of sulfur too. Simply relying on the State DEQ or the EPA to regulate the fracking business isn't going to be enough, and once Michigan's water is contaminated, there won't be any way to fix it. Burning natural gas as a fuel still contributes to the greenhouse gas burden, and pollutes the air we all must breath. My vote would be towards the exploitation of renewable energy sources, and rewarding conservation and efficiency measures.

Nancy Shiffler

Tue, Nov 8, 2011 : 4:58 p.m.

Deep shale hydraulic fracturing with horizontal drilling is on a different scale from previous gas drilling in this state; it involves greater volumes of water and undisclosed toxic chemicals that are used and must be disposed of. The experiences of states like Pennsylvania, New York, Colorado, Texas, and Arkansas, where thousands of these wells have been drilled, include stories of toxic spills, well and surface water contamination, air pollution, and unexpected seismic activity. Before we find ourselves in the same situation as these states, we need to stop and take a closer look at what additional safeguards we need to have in place to protect our water and air resources. We can't afford to get this wrong. We are stewards of the greatest freshwater system in the world here in the Great Lakes state. Half our residents get their drinking water from ground water wells. Water-dependent industries like fishing , boating, and tourism pump billions of dollars and countless jobs into our economy. With these bills we have the opportunity to take a closer look at what additional safeguards need to be put in place and to open up what has been a rather secretive process to the public for a robust and through discussion. It's a lot cheaper to put the protections in place ahead of time than it is to clean up a mess later on.

Edward R Murrow's Ghost

Tue, Nov 8, 2011 : 2:08 p.m.

Yeah, there's no problem with Fracking. <a href="" rel='nofollow'></a> <a href="" rel='nofollow'></a> And North Dakota just loves Fracking. <a href="" rel='nofollow'></a> Well, maybe not. But, of course, the creation of jobs trumps environmental policy. That is, unless it is YOUR drinking water that is being poisoned. <a href="" rel='nofollow'>;sq=fracking&amp;st=cse</a> But I do hear the burying one's head in the sand and shouting &quot;na na na na na na na na na na na na na&quot; makes the problems associated with fracking go away. Oh, and by the way, for those who see this as out only energy alternative: the cost of solar panels are dropping 7% per year, in large part due to China's subsidizing its solar panel industry. Solyndra and the rest American solar panel industry is struggling not due to poor management but due to unfair trade policies. <a href="" rel='nofollow'>;emc=rss</a> But that ruins a great teaparty story line, doesn't it? Good Night and Good Luck


Thu, Nov 10, 2011 : 5:45 p.m.

Eddie- Solyndra was one the highest cost manufacturers. You are correct, China is engaging in unfair trade, but Solyndra would have gone under just facing US competition. Democrats and Republicans are equally poor at investing our money. It's not a tea party issue, it's an American issue.

Edward R Murrow's Ghost

Tue, Nov 8, 2011 : 5:41 p.m.

Yeah. Who cares if it poisons us? Because, as DonBee points out above, back in the good old days when business culd do whatever it wanted to the environment, rivers caught fire. And that's a good thing, right? GN&amp;GL

Superior Twp voter

Tue, Nov 8, 2011 : 4:28 p.m.

Thank you, State Rep. Olson. Drill and frack away please. Real tired of not being allowed to tap our own energy resources.

Edward R Murrow's Ghost

Tue, Nov 8, 2011 : 1:51 p.m.

motorcycleminer wrote: &quot;If this was being done by the UFW ( united fracking workers ) union, not only would the democrats praise it as new jobs and it would be underwritten by tax dollars and hailed as a way out of the slumping economy...keep up the fight Rick ..I just love 'sheeple' tapping away on their I-Pads bemoaning the energy that runs can't fix stupid...&quot; What makes you think they aren't organized? Employees in the petroleum industry are represented by the United Steel Workers (the Oil, Chemical, and Atomic Workers International Union merged with the USW). The United Association of Plimbers and Pipefitters also represent a significant segment in the petroleum industry. Or did I miss something? Or, in the alternative, is motorcycleminer drawing conclusions based on no facts whatsoever? Gee, it couldn't be the latter, could it? But motorcycleminer is correct about one thing: You can't fix stupid. Good Night and Good Luck


Tue, Nov 8, 2011 : 1:05 p.m.

If this was being done by the UFW ( united fracking workers ) union, not only would the democrats praise it as new jobs and it would be underwritten by tax dollars and hailed as a way out of the slumping economy...keep up the fight Rick ..I just love &quot; sheeple &quot; tapping away on their I-Pads bemoaning the energy that runs can't fix stupid....


Tue, Nov 8, 2011 : 11:35 a.m.

Once again the extremes are shaping the debate. I'm all for full disclosure on fracking chemicals, as I think everyone is. Why would we halt the production of clean energy and study it for several years? That sounds like a back door way to just kill an industry. And a presumption of guilt if chemicals are found in groundwater? Lets just gut the constitution. Natural gas is the short term answer and extreme environmentalists need to get the hell out of the way. Oil companies and drillers can't be trusted to always do the right thing, and the state needs to watch them closely. That about sums it up from those of us in the middle.


Tue, Nov 8, 2011 : 8:46 a.m.

Mr. Olson, there are some things in life that are more important than &quot;Jobs Jobs Jobs&quot; and that is life itself. What good is a job when the industry is lightly regulated and a threat to worker health. public health, and the environment? What's wrong with full disclosure? When a company isn't forced to disclose and the Republicans don't care, then likely there is something shady going on. Why is abortion wrong when its okay to potentially harm workers, people who drink water, and the environment. Wouldn't you say the right to life is for everyone? The tobacco companies did the same thing years ago by refuting the cancer link and for years they got away with it because the government didn't want to protect the people.

Stephen Landes

Tue, Nov 8, 2011 : 4:55 a.m.

Jeff Irwin -- politician in a vain search for relevance.


Tue, Nov 8, 2011 : 10:35 p.m.

That's funny; I was going to say the same thing about commentators like you (minus the elected office part, of course!).


Tue, Nov 8, 2011 : 2:55 a.m.

New York and PA are also holding for further study. Oklahoma thinks fracking might be causing earthquakes. Fracking uses millions of gallons of water and a bunch of chemicals to break up the shale. Who pays for all the water used, the people of Michigan. The water that reaches the surface will need to be treated, the rest goes into the aquifer untreated. We in AA know all about an aquifer being polluted. We need more study for something as environmentally dangerous as fracking.


Tue, Nov 8, 2011 : 8:52 a.m.

DonBee the water migrates through cracks in the shale (and makes its way to deep ground water plumes. Its not solid rock; otherwise fracking would not work. It breaks the shale through exploiting vulnerabilities in the rock. Nobody who isn't an engineer in this field knows all the facts so don't feel bad you tried to make someone look less knowledgeable when you are no better.


Tue, Nov 8, 2011 : 3:34 a.m.

Leaguebus - I would love for you to explain how water migrates up from the shale layer thru more than 1000 feet of solid rock into the aquifer. Please provide the physics for that to happen. The contamination of aquifers to date have all been traced to surface problems or poorly drilled wells, not water coming up from the ground.


Tue, Nov 8, 2011 : 2:31 a.m.

Mr Briegel - I am not against reasonable regulation. What I object to here is the moratorium on drilling and the driller being pronounced guilty before any investigation. I am all in favor of disclosing the formula, of proper waste treatment, of minimizing the drilling pad size, of keeping rigs miles from the lake shore and well away from rivers. I am in favor of drillers posting bonds and closing the loop holes. I am in favor state taxes on the energy extracted. This is similar to President Obama's website pre-election where he was in favor of Nuclear power once EVERY problem with nuclear power was solved (emphasis added). The people assumed he would favor building nuclear power plants - then he added to the problems by banning the use of the Yucca Mountain Repository that the industry had spent billions building. Rep Irwin is on the same boat, any excuse to avoid ever drilling in Michigan (and if elected to the US House, in the USA).

Edward R Murrow's Ghost

Tue, Nov 8, 2011 : 3:37 p.m.

. . . and if fracking is safe, why the necessity for an exemption from the provisions of the Clean Water Act? GN&amp;GL


Tue, Nov 8, 2011 : 2:16 p.m.

DonBee - I think the big hold up for a number of people is the lack of disclosure of the chemical formula for fracking and the clean water act exemption. If the industry feels they need to keep these secret, it naturally breeds suspicion. If they would voluntarily stop, I think a lot of people would be more willing to consider fracking.


Tue, Nov 8, 2011 : 2:27 a.m.

All this fracturing stiff is a hazard to every one and thing evolved. It's a wonder how the federal clean water act only one exception, and that's Halliburton INC. They are allowed to make the well water in our beloved state poisonous. How is that going to fix the energy crisis. Get this company out of here. If you want to see what I'm talking about, just look it up. They already destroyed Tenn, Virginia, and other states water supply. Now they want to come here and do the same. They must be kidding, unless they want to change the atmosphere. There is a rumor that Lizard people control the governments around the planet, and they want to terraform our Earth to a planet that is more like the one they came from. I did not believe it, but the more I see the more I want to believe it is Lizard people. Why else would someone want to fracture our Earth to let the trapped gasses seep and pollute out water and atmosphere. Unbelievable!

David Briegel

Tue, Nov 8, 2011 : 1:36 a.m.

Once Upon A Time conservatives stood for conservation and sanity. No longer. Conservatives want to go back to the good ole days of yesteryear when pollution was allowed and the air wasn't fit to breathe. Darn those EPA regulations that are making it difficult on those Oligarch job creators. What kind of silly people want to protect the environment? Oh, just the sane, responsible conservationist citizens. Maybe DDT and turning our rivers into sewers again will bring the promised prosperity.

Ron Granger

Tue, Nov 8, 2011 : 1:32 a.m.

Michigan water is a tremendous resource that must not be damaged or squandered to enrich &quot;job creators&quot;. A few jobs and profits from pumping toxic sludge into our groundwater, and draining our water resources, is not worth the potential damage.


Tue, Nov 8, 2011 : 1:32 a.m.

It is clear that Irwin is totally incompetent on the technology. While other neighboring states develop this proven safe technology Irwin wants Michigan to stick her head in the sand (no pun intended). If Irwin was not in a safe seat his keister would get bounce next November and then he's have to find a REAL job.


Tue, Nov 8, 2011 : 1:12 a.m.

Jobs are an important issue of course, but not at the expense of the environment. It is insane to bypass clean air / clean water laws just to create jobs for short term gain and long term pain. That is what happens in some of the provinces in China, they are willing to look away from environmental regulations in order to have companies set up shop in their province...but massive environmental issues and health issues are the result. If energy companies were willing to disclose what is in their fracking chemical soup and voluntarily close the Clean Water Act exemption I would have more trust that they are operating in good of right now they are operating solely to make the largest profit possible, even at the expense of the environment and people in the immediate vicinity of the wells. (I recommend renting the movie &quot;Gasland&quot; to get a bit educated on fracking before blindly saying &quot;it's awesome, it's clean energy, and it'll create jobs. While a bit one sided, it does raise some solid concerns and questions that need to be addressed)

Charlie Brown's Ghost

Tue, Nov 8, 2011 : 4:32 a.m.

&quot;Jobs are an important issue of course, but not at the expense of the environment.&quot; This is called &quot;the fallacy of the false alternative.&quot;


Tue, Nov 8, 2011 : 1:02 a.m.

Yeah Gramma? Ya know what? I'll be dead in fifty years and if this state doesn't do something fast it will be dead sooner than that. I am all for fracking and the boon it could bring to Michigan like is happening in North Dakota.


Tue, Nov 8, 2011 : 10:33 p.m.

Are you all for the earthquakes and pollution that come with fracking, too? Three words, Tesia: long term planning.


Tue, Nov 8, 2011 : 1:59 p.m.

Um, you'll be dead considerably sooner than in 50 years if you drink water contaminated with poisonous, carcinogenic fracking chemicals.


Tue, Nov 8, 2011 : 12:48 a.m.

I strongly support Irwin's bill. Fifty years ago, you could safely swim in any lake in Michigan. The oil companies burned off the natural gas coming from their oil wells. If &quot;progress&quot; with its pollution, consumption and destruction of natural resources and the environment continues at the current rate, everyone may be looking for ways to keep warm in the next 50 years. There won't be trees to burn for firewood. There will be no clean water to swim in or even to drink. Many countries already have trouble supplying adequate water to their populations (who use a lot less per person than we do).


Tue, Nov 8, 2011 : 1:14 a.m.

Gramma - Wrong, you could swim in Lake Michigan, but we did not have the tests we do today. The water was way more polluted than it is today. Remember the burning rivers in Ohio. Rivers in Michigan were in almost as bad shape. Today we have hundreds of tests to see if the water is fine in 1961 - the tests did not exist and were not run. I swam in the lake regularly and still do when I feel like it. The water is in way better shape than it was. But let's not let facts get in the way of a good story.


Tue, Nov 8, 2011 : 12:34 a.m.

And notice how the Ann Arbor News presents the Democrat view first as if it is the &quot;right one&quot;. Then provides the Republican view second and with less coverage.

Edward R Murrow's Ghost

Tue, Nov 8, 2011 : 3:56 p.m.

Irwin is the lead because story's thrust is that he supports a bill pending before the legislature. I guess Olsen could be the lead if the story were about legislators who support turning over the state's natural resources to the petroleum industry with no questions asked, but I'm bettin' that you'd think that story would be slanted, too. Good Night and Good Luck

David Briegel

Tue, Nov 8, 2011 : 1:39 a.m.

nicole, how could you not be aware of the fact that this right wing organ has endorsed more TeaPublicons than Democrats?


Tue, Nov 8, 2011 : 12:50 a.m.

It's not a matter of politics. It's a matter of what will exist in the future.


Tue, Nov 8, 2011 : 12:11 a.m.

The EPA wants to take away coal electrical generation plants. Jeff Irwin wants to take away natural gas Environmentalists want to stop the pipeline from Canada Birders want to stop wind mills If you don't have a fireplace and a woodlot, I hope you like freezing in the dark.


Tue, Nov 8, 2011 : 3:29 p.m.

Come election time we can elect folks who will better represent our interests.


Tue, Nov 8, 2011 : 2:49 p.m.

I also get my news from youtube. NOT!


Tue, Nov 8, 2011 : 2:01 p.m.

You could always just light the poisonous water that comes out of your tap from all the fracking chemicals. That might keep you warm until you died from drinking said water. <a href="" rel='nofollow'></a>

The Picker

Tue, Nov 8, 2011 : 12:22 a.m.

C'mon DB, you can't burn anything anymore!!!