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Posted on Thu, Jul 11, 2013 : 2:15 p.m.

State representatives Irwin, Driskell join House Dems in announcing fracking safeguard legislation

By Amy Biolchini

State representatives Gretchen Driskell, D-Saline and Jeff Irwin, D-Ann Arbor, announced Thursday in Ann Arbor two bills they're sponsoring as a part of an eight-bill package that could bring safe guards to the controversial practice of hydraulic fracturing, or fracking.

Fracking is a practice used by the oil and gas industry in which a mixture of water, sand and chemicals known as brine are forced into drilled wells, fracturing the thin layers of rock between pockets of oil and gas to access more of the resource.


A natural gas rig near Montrose, Penn. The Montrose area and Susquehanna County in Pennsylvania are some of the earliest epicenters of shale gas drilling.

Courtesy of U-M School of Engineering

Companies do not have to disclose the chemicals they add to brine water, which are regarded as a trade secret.

The package of eight bills comes as a Canadian firm, Encana Corp., has proposed 500 natural gas frack wells in northern Michigan that would use more than 4 billion gallons of groundwater for its operations.

House Democrats backing the package started a website to support their fracking legislation:

Irwin's legislation -- House Bill 4900 -- would require that companies be forced to disclose those chemicals in order to receive a fracking permit from the state. The legislation also demands the use of a tracer chemical by fracking operations in order to know if groundwater has been contaminated.

"These deep, horizontal fracking operations should disclose the chemicals they are pumping underground, and they should be held publicly accountable for their massive water use," Irwin said in a statement. "Nobody should be allowed to pump a nearby creek or well dry. My colleagues and I are introducing legislation to make sure this process is safe and transparent."

Oil and gas wells are regulated by the state. The Michigan Zoning Enabling Act prevents townships and counties from adding additional restrictions or regulations to their operations -- which Driskell's proposed legislation seeks to change.

Under House Bill 4904, counties and townships could regulate the operation, location and abandonment of wells. The legislation would not be able to prevent fracking as a practice from taking place.

"My bill allows local control of where fracking sites can be located," Driskell said in a statement. "I believe it's important for our citizens to participate in the decision-making process when issues like this impact them right in their backyard."

Other bills included in the package include:

  • House Bill 4903, sponsored by Rep. Sean McCann: Would require drilling operations that use an average of 100,000 gallons of water per day or more to screen for adverse impacts on water resources
  • House Bill 4901, sponsored by Rep. Marcia Hovey-Wright: Would require state to study public health, environmental and natural resource impacts associated with fracking
  • House Bill 4899, sponsored by Rep. Sarah Roberts: Would require public participation in the permitting process
  • House Bil 4902, sponsored by Rep. Rashida Tlaib: Would make the fracking operation liable if fracking chemicals or tracer chemical is found in groundwater
  • House Bil 4905, sponsored by Rep Tom Cochran: Would prohibit water that comes out of a frack well from being used as a dust suppressant on dirt roads
  • House Bill 4906, sponsored by Rep. Vicki Barnett: Would increase setback requirements from residential areas for frack wells to 1,000 feet for all areas.

Irwin and Driskell were joined Thursday by State Rep. Adam Zemke, D-Ann Arbor.

Amy Biolchini covers Washtenaw County, health and environmental issues for Reach her at (734) 623-2552, or on Twitter.



Fri, Jul 12, 2013 : 5:39 p.m.

The state of Michigan should make "fracking" illegal. Once ground water is contaminated it can't effectively be cleaned up. Look at what has happened with Gelman (Pall). That contamination is still spreading. Clean drinking water is a lot more valuable than short term profits by companies who will disappear once the problems start.


Fri, Jul 12, 2013 : 3:40 a.m.

Want to pump chemicals into the GROUND? Tell the public what they are. Why is this an issue? Wouldn't be but for corporate funded campaigns and their lobby lackeys

Nicholas Urfe

Thu, Jul 11, 2013 : 11:46 p.m.

Fracking has been directly linked to earthquakes.


Fri, Jul 12, 2013 : 4:14 p.m. Youngstown Ohio of all places.


Fri, Jul 12, 2013 : 12:01 p.m.

@peggysue, What was the price of gas when Obama and crew took control, and what is it now?


Fri, Jul 12, 2013 : 1:25 a.m.

When I lived in Colorado they had injection wells for pollution and it would cause 2 or 3 earthquakes a month when they put to much in or did it under to much pressure.


Fri, Jul 12, 2013 : 1:04 a.m.

How about volcanos , Pompeii must have been those damned republicans? You know the greedy George Bush ,remember him gas was $1.25 a gallon how dare them taking food away from the plantation to pay for gas to go pick up my bridge card. LOL suckers, drink the cool-aid


Fri, Jul 12, 2013 : 12:22 a.m.

How many earthquakes have there been in Michigan?


Thu, Jul 11, 2013 : 11:18 p.m.

Water will be much much more valuable than natural gas and oil in the near future. Even more so in our state where it is literally the only tourist draw. Foreign companies shouldn't be able to pollute our lands and sell off the extracted fuel to our communist enemies. NO FRACKING!


Thu, Jul 11, 2013 : 9:46 p.m.

I have not yet read the bills, a couple of them I can't find on the state website yet. I think telling people what chemicals are in the mix is an excellent idea, if you don't want to tell people then you should not be drilling - but the devil is in the details of the bill. I agree there should be studies before wells go in, but again the devil is in the details of the bill. None of these by the summary Ms. Biolchinin provides looks like a deal killer for a drilling company, but again the devil is in the details. Michigan once upon a time was one of the major oil and gas production locations. You can still see the remains in the middle parts of the state. What you may not know is Michigan has the largest annual injection and withdrawal of natural gas of any state into natural formations. Trillions of cubic feet of natural gas are pumped into the old field, some of which are only a hundred or so feet below the ground water. Did you realize that? One of the reasons the price of natural gas is so stable in the state is much of the ready supply of natural gas is stored here, in Michigan. Has been for decades. Quiet, little industry, it is. Fracking has a bad reputation, no question of that, many people would like to see the end to the use of fossil fuels, and cheap natural gas makes that harder to do, so if they can ban the drilling for it, they can get on with the grand agenda. After all energy use is evil and the US is the most evil because we use more energy per capita than any other country.


Fri, Jul 12, 2013 : 4:06 p.m.

Your post is very confusing. You state that on first look, there appears to be little problem with the bills. You state that when chemicals are injected into the ground, people should know what those chemicals are. Then you end with a rant about people who think energy use is evil, and have a grand agenda. How about the majority of people, that do use energy but would like to see it drilled for and transported in a safer manner than it appears to be currently? Those who think that the track record of the oil industry is far from exemplary and are just not willing to let them do whatever they want with few controls because, in their opinion, if the end result is cheaper, then there is nothing more important than that? I agree with your first part, that on face value the bills seem to be a good effort to make things safer. They are injecting chemicals into the ground after all. We need to have some understanding of the effects. So let's get on with the hearings on the bills and see what they say, and make them effective at protecting the public. The public obviously loves cheap energy; but they also love uncontaminated water and land left behind. Those at both ends always seem to imply that everything is either/or. That is rarely the case.


Thu, Jul 11, 2013 : 8:30 p.m.

And for those Zealots who know that there cannot be a surviving middle-class after their dependent carbon fuels on Earth are exhausted here is NYTimes writeup of one documented Fracking pollutioncase "This is a 1987 report to Congress by the Environmental Protection Agency that deals with waste from the exploration, development and production of oil, natural gas and geothermal energy. It states that hydraulic fracturing, also called fracking, can cause groundwater contamination. It cites as an example a case in which hydraulic fracturing fluids contaminated a water well in West Virginia. The report also describes the difficulties that sealed court settlements created for investigators." /interactive/us /drilling-down-documents-7.html?_r=0

An Arborigine

Thu, Jul 11, 2013 : 8:17 p.m.

The GOP will kill this as soon as the backslappers can get into a backroom meeting.


Thu, Jul 11, 2013 : 8:16 p.m.

Do like fracking? Better share what chemicals are in your fracking solution. They have these things called patents that ensure that your trade secrets won't be stolen...


Thu, Jul 11, 2013 : 8:14 p.m.

Don't like fracking? Better support energy conservation- sustainable buildings, walkable communities, public transit...


Thu, Jul 11, 2013 : 8:53 p.m.

Or if you don't like the Mayoral DDA vision of the future you can encourage Population Reduction, Or demand more Solar Cells, Fusion, Storage Cell research, electric grid infrastructure, Or go out and buy a new Eco-mobile now available at your local dealers Or even order your new beautiful American TESLA straight from California


Thu, Jul 11, 2013 : 8:05 p.m.

Typical Democrats - try to look like you working for what your liberal base wants without actually doing anything substantial. If this were immigration legislation they would say "Welcome everybody". Allowing the Republicans then to do their little two-step dance. If it is Fracking legislation? Well, hmm. Put a little citizen input here. A few more bureaucratic hoops there. And a couple of permit Bills over there. All Done! Vote for me again! (Hint - don't).


Fri, Jul 12, 2013 : 3:34 a.m.

Try logic. It helps.

Nicholas Urfe

Thu, Jul 11, 2013 : 11:44 p.m.

What is it you are trying to say? That nothing should be done to regulate fracking and water withdrawals in Michigan? What is the basis for your claim that this legislation does nothing substantial? The burden is on your to substantiate your claim.


Thu, Jul 11, 2013 : 7:49 p.m.

This is a witch hunt by a bunch of zealots. There is not one documented case of water wells being polluted yet everyone's hair is on fire over it...........unbelievable. Maybe we should go back to the days when we threw human sacrifices into volcanoes to stop things like global warming............ I'm not sure what is so progressive about progressives. They want to go backward to times when there was no oil or industry, the things that gave them a chance to raise families and live in a prosperous middle class.


Fri, Jul 12, 2013 : 5:32 p.m.

Talk to people who live around Youngstown, Ohio and in Pennsylvania. Allowing "fracking" is a serious mistake. Once ground water is contaminated it cannot be cleaned up.


Fri, Jul 12, 2013 : 3:42 p.m.

Mike Great idea there, do nothing until things ARE polluted, then play the blame game and get nowhere for restitution. It has worked so well in the past. If fracking is so problem-free, and so healthy and safe, then those people doing it shouldn't be so afraid of a little openness and some reasonable controls.

Nicholas Urfe

Thu, Jul 11, 2013 : 11:47 p.m.

Don't forget about the earthquakes caused by fracking.

Nicholas Urfe

Thu, Jul 11, 2013 : 11:42 p.m.

@Mike: Apparently you haven't been reading the news. Why don't you drive up to Kalkaska. Tell those people you deny their claims.


Thu, Jul 11, 2013 : 11 p.m.

"....... and a whole state of ruined land that was once unpolluted by these greedy oil and gas corporations", is what DonBee forgot to write at the end of his reply above. DonBee, oil and gas corporations have lost all credibility. Perhaps if oil/gas companies (including Big Oil, but not limited to it) hadn't responded by deflecting responsibility for all their horrific accidents in recent memory, folks around MI wouldn't be so vehemently opposed to their business moving in. As it stands, though, gas, oil, and mining companies have shown time and time again that they have no regard whatsoever for the land, water, and people who use both.


Thu, Jul 11, 2013 : 9:35 p.m.

LOL sayzme - LOL If we imported natural gas, as we were doing just 10 years ago, we would be paying 5 times what we pay now, and more than 100,000 jobs would disappear from the oil and gas fields. While I agree the corporations are mostly greedy, in this case the fact that they are greedy means they are over producing, which gives the middle class lower cost heat in the winter and air conditioning in the summer.


Thu, Jul 11, 2013 : 8:05 p.m.

Prosperous middle class? Where have you been? Corporations and greedy oil companies take more and more from the middle class so the fat cats at the top have enough money to buy elections. "Corporations are people" said SCOTUS, however disgusting that may be..


Thu, Jul 11, 2013 : 7:38 p.m.

"Nobody should be allowed to pump a nearby creek or well dry." What damn fool that needs a continuing source of water would pump it dry? How would he continue to operate after spending all that money putting in the equipment?


Fri, Jul 12, 2013 : 3:38 p.m.

Well, lets see... they are pumping oil. If a well is pumped dry after 3 or 4 years of fracking for oil, they probably have made a nice profit. For all we know now, the decision process may well include calculations as to how long they can pump at what rate before they move on to a different location. Apparently it has happened, so this is not a what-if scenario.

Nicholas Urfe

Thu, Jul 11, 2013 : 11:41 p.m.

The frackers did it in Kalkaska. They sucked the wells dry and impacted the local drinking water quality. When they ran dry, they bought drinking water from the city. Michigan's cheap water makes it an attractive target for the fracking business model.

Linda Peck

Thu, Jul 11, 2013 : 7:36 p.m.

Fracking should not be done at all, not here, not anywhere.


Sat, Jul 13, 2013 : 1:13 p.m.

"Let's all become Amish!"? We could do - and have done - worse.

Usual Suspect

Thu, Jul 11, 2013 : 10:14 p.m.

Can't frack here. Can't drill here. Can't refine here. Can't build a pipeline to here. Let's all become Amish!


Thu, Jul 11, 2013 : 9:32 p.m.

Turn off your light and air conditioner, turn off your computer, and other devices that use electricity. Half of the United States electricity this summer is coming from natural gas, much of it from wells that use this process. If we stop it completely your natural gas for heating this winter will be at the world price for natural gas, about 5 times what you paid last winter. Sure, stop the process, no problem, just open your wallet and dig deep because the energy you use will go up significantly. Right now the alternative that is readily available to deal with less natural gas is turning back on the coal plants. It will take a decade or more to put in enough wind power and supporting infrastructure to not use either coal or natural gas.


Thu, Jul 11, 2013 : 7:08 p.m.

Thank you state rep's Driskell, Irwin, and Zemke. We need this, fracking is going to pollute all of us one day...

Nicholas Urfe

Thu, Jul 11, 2013 : 6:50 p.m.

Will these companies be around to take "responsibility" if there are any long term consequences for these huge water withdrawals? Or will the profits be sucked out and the companies shutdown before anything can be done?

Nicholas Urfe

Thu, Jul 11, 2013 : 6:49 p.m.

Fracking has been blamed in Northern Michigan for damaging residential drinking well quality and water availability. The DEQ's method of determining the size of safe water withdrawals is completely flawed.