Jeff Irwin: 'Pure Michigan legacy could be severely damaged' if state fails to address fracking
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.
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
"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 AnnArbor.com. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org or 734-623-2529. You also can follow him on Twitter or subscribe to AnnArbor.com's e-mail newsletters.