November’s Letter to the Editor

That MDEQ!

The same cast of MDEQ characters who brought lead poisoning to Flint’s children is also solely responsible for assuring the safety of Michigan oil and gas fracking. Think about it.

In the change-over to Flint River water, MDEQ misled the federal government, assuring EPA it had in place required measures to deal with caustic corrosion when it did not. It publicly attacked outside experts who were attempting to protect Flint children from further poisoning just as it attacked as “fear mongers” citizens who raised legitimate concerns about safety in the fracking process.

The undeniable reality of lead poisoned children overwhelmed MDEQ spin doctors.

We now hear that instead of cleaning up its act, MDEQ decided to spend $100,000 of taxpayer dollars to clean up its public image. This circle-the-wagons mentality must end. The children of Flint and Michigan’s land, air, and water deserve far better.

Unless Gov. Snyder cleans house in this important agency, and brings in new, competent people who base objective decisions and appropriate regulatory action on fact-based science rather than on political expediency, we’re certain to have another irreparable tragedy when energy prices rise and reignite the fracking boom.

Marybeth Pritschet

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October’s Letter to the Editor

You Can See It from Space

In a satellite view of Michigan, the Barry and Allegan State Game Areas can be seen as darker green, textured areas of forest in the satellite image.  These areas are in contrast to the rest of the land that is lighter green, mowed, tilled, and divided up with roads.

The game areas were designated by the legislature as lands of special value to be protected for the myriad organisms that live there.  However, the Michigan DEQ has repeatedly offered these protected areas for oil and gas leases.  Another lease auction that includes 22,000 acres of state-owned oil and gas lease rights in Allegan, Kalamazoo, Kent, and 17 other counties is scheduled to take place on October 28, 2015.  Nationwide, 34 million acres of public lands had been leased by the end of 2014, and another 200 million acres are currently being targeted.

The practice of leasing state-owned mineral rights should be reviewed in light of the current technology in oil and gas extraction.  If the leases that have been sold in the game areas are ever developed by oil and gas companies, heavy industrial activities will take place.  A minimum of 5 acres will be clear cut for each well pad, roads will be built, storage tanks and chemicals will be brought in, and methane will be vented into the air.  This will all be done for the profit of the companies, not because the energy products are needed so desperately that it is ethically worth it to destroy the large greenspace of the protected lands.

Take a look at the satellite image of pure Michigan and imagine how it would have looked 100 or 200 years ago.  The protected areas in Allegan and Barry counties are probably an example of historic forested areas in southwest Michigan.  Why risk destroying them with oil and gas exploration activities?

Cindy Vigneron

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Urge to Action: Respond to recent State Notice

A notice appeared in the Allegan County News recently. It is the first time we have seen any such notice seeking comment from the general public concerning proposed oil and gas auctions. Therefore, we urge you to write a comment expressing disapproval of the new oil and gas lease sales in the Allegan State Game Area scheduled for October of this year.

Comments must be received no later than Tuesday, Sept 8, 2015, mailed to the MDNR, Office of Minerals Management, P. O. Box 30452, Lansing, MI 48909-7952.

  • MNDR – Michigan Department of Natural Resources
  • ASGA – Allegan State Game Area

Following are some points, some or all of which you may want to include in your comment, as to why further lease sales are inappropriate in the Allegan State Game Area:

  • The Allegan State Game Area is already heavily leased both by federal and state authorities.
  • More than 800 private human drinking water wells are located in and around the ASGA.
  • It provides important habitat for federally-listed endangered species and for at least 46 additional plant, bird, reptile and insect species under stress because of insufficient habitat, and are included on state and federal lists as threatened or species of concern.
  • The State of Michigan designated the lower Kalamazoo River that runs through the ASGA and one of its tributaries, Swan Creek, as “Natural Rivers”, and, historically, the MDNR requires wholly inadequate setbacks or other protections for waterways in development areas.
  • The abundance of flora and fauna in the ASGA is due to its currently undisturbed nature and to the diversity and abundance of surface water features which include nine lakes, trout streams, creeks, significant and profuse open vegetated wetlands, numerous springs, vernal pools and wet woods.
  • The ASGA contains three wildlife sanctuaries where human access is prohibited.
  • Oil and gas development will adversely impact wildlife and other natural resource values.
  • Oil and gas development that utilizes hydraulic fracturing requires the use of many hazardous substances which may reach water by various pathways, including surface spills, casing failure and blow-outs, among others.
  • Significant air pollution is necessarily associated with oil and gas development.
  • Fragmentation of the forest will result from the network of roads, pipelines, gathering lines and other infrastructure needed to service drill pads which will degrade the natural values currently existing intact in the ASGA.
  • Unacceptable levels of noise and vibration along with banks of high intensity lighting will disrupt bird nesting and other wildlife needs and values.
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June’s Letter to the Editor

  Business as usual

Times are a changing, even though some would like to pretend it should be “business as usual”.  The average person recognizes that the world is in dire straits when we hear reports of pipelines exploding, droughts, water being contaminated, accidents where thousands of gallons of oil are dumped into our waterways, species becoming extinct, increased cancer rates.   Need I say more?

It can be easier to go about our lives “business as usual”, leaving the advertisers, politicians and industries to supervise themselves.  In the comfort of our daily lives it is easy to forget that this beautiful earth is being devastated and many individuals are suffering the harmful effects of our “business as usual”.

What will our children and children’s children say about us and our choices that affect their future, their way of life?  Why do we think we deserve to use and destroy so much for our comfort?  Don’t we owe it to others to do our best to protect and conserve these finite resources?  Wouldn’t it be easier to make changes now, rather than later when even more is destroyed and the carbon fuels are gone.

Is this the legacy you want to leave?  We are all responsible.  Step up to the plate and take action. There is plenty to do at all levels.  None of us is too busy or too important that we are exempt from this responsibility.  Each one of our voices makes a difference.

You can start by signing the petition that is circulating to get the fracking issue on the ballot so the residents in Michigan can decide if we want fracking and the disposal of its waste in our state.  I am helping collect signatures.  Contact me at    or

Karen Fifelski

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Contact Members of the MI House Oversight and Ethics Committee to Oppose HB 4540

We urge you to contact members of the Michigan Oversight and Ethics Committee to oppose a new House Bill (4540) that was introduced last week by Rep Heise and is going to committee on Thursday May 14.  The bill would permanently block public access to energy system safety records under Michigan’s Freedom of Information Act (FOIA). This legislation is unnecessary because federal rules already address national security issues for pipelines and Michigan’s FOIA law already exempts disclosure of records that would jeopardize safety and security.

Basic information “about the production, generation, transportation, transmission, or distribution of fuel or energy” would become exempt from Michigan’s FOIA.  Residents would not be allowed to have information about what is going through pipelines on their property, among other things, like what the oil or gas company plans to do if a pipeline ruptures on their property.

Please phone the committee members as shown below before Thursday, May 14 and let them know your thoughts:

Ed McBroom (R) Committee Chair, 108th District (517) 373-0156
Martin Howrylak (R) Majority Vice-Chair, 41st District (517)373-1783
Toll-free: (877) 248-0001
Joseph Graves (R) 51st District (517) 373-1780 Toll-free: (866) 989-5151
Lana Theis (R) 42nd District (517) 373-1784
Rose Mary Robinson (D) Minority Vice-Chair, 4th District (517) 373-1008,
Toll-free (855) 654-0404
Kristy Pagan (D) 21st District (517) 373-2575

Find more information here:

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May’s Letter to the Editor postings

Letter to the Editor

Many of you felt the earthquake recently on May 2. I live in Yankee Springs and I heard a loud roar and my house shook for 8-10 seconds.  It is said that the epicenter of the 4.2 quake was near Galesburg.  What might have caused this I wonder?  Earthquakes are not common in Michigan.  Not yet anyway.  Our last one was in 1994 and the last one of this magnitude was the 4.6 back in 1947.

According to recent studies earthquakes have increased dramatically since the new method of drilling for gas and oil called high volume horizontal hydraulic fracturing, fracking for short, has been used to drill for gas and oil.  Fracking is the technique of injecting water, sand and chemicals under high pressure deep underground to crack shale rock and release gas and oil.  The waste, or ‘produced ‘ water, as it is called, is stored deep in the ground by injecting it under high pressure.

Within the central and eastern United States, the number of earthquakes has increased dramatically over the past few years. Between the years 1973–2008, there was an average of 21 earthquakes of magnitude three and larger in the central and eastern United States. This rate jumped to an average of 99 earthquakes per year in 2009–2013, and the rate continues to rise. In 2014, alone, there were 659 earthquakes in the eastern United States.

According to the United States Geological Survey (USGS) there is evidence that some central and eastern North America earthquakes have been triggered or caused by human activities such as injection of fluid into the earth’s crust and extraction of fluid or gas.

A team of USGS scientists led by Bill Ellsworth found that earth quakes coincided with the injection of wastewater in deep disposal wells in several locations, including ColoradoTexas, ArkansasOklahoma and Ohio. In the Jan 6, 2015 Bulletin of the Seismology Society of America it was stated that a series of 77 earthquakes in Ohio were caused by fracking.

The Committee to Ban Fracking in Michigan is beginning a Ballot Initiative Petition Drive to ban fracking and the storage of fracking waste in Michigan May 22nd.  This is a grass roots organization led by concerned people who want to protect Michigan and its water from the consequences of fracking.  High volume fracking has only been used since 2010 in Michigan but it has been used extensively in other states and the serious problems they are having are now becoming known. Let us learn from the experience of others and protect our state and water now.  Interested people who would like to work on this campaign are invited to attend the Petitioner Training May 21st.  at 7:00 pm at the Thomas Jefferson Hall, 328 S. Jefferson St. Hastings. To learn more about the petition campaign go to or

Jackie Schmitz


Is It Time to Look Harder at Renewable Energy?

The Michigan earthquake on May 2, 2015 brought back some interesting memories for our family.  We have lost two water wells as a result of earthquakes in the past 19 years.  We were living near Augusta in Kalamazoo County in January, 1986 when a 5.0 magnitude earthquake occurred in northeastern Ohio.  That night our well started pumping sand instead of water; the casing was broken by the earthquake.  The interesting thing I learned later is that Ohio University researchers implicated pressure from the injection of chemical wastes into a nearly 6,000-foot deep sandstone formation in triggering that earthquake and two aftershocks.

I’m not suggesting this week’s earthquake was triggered by injection wells or any human activity, but it’s likely that recent quakes around the country have been caused by human activity.  There is a great deal of documentation of a marked increase in the rate of earthquakes in Oklahoma, Ohio, Colorado, and other states, along with scientific consensus that they are caused by injecting fluids deep into the earth under high pressure.  Maybe this is an example of just going too far in extracting hydrocarbons from the earth and using them to create more toxic chemicals and waste which then has to be disposed of.  Is it time to take a serious interest in renewable energy?  Governor Snyder and the legislature plan to completely review Michigan’s energy policy this year.  If you have an interest in reducing hydrocarbon extraction, let them know your thoughts.

Cindy Vigneron


Letter to the Editor

Risks associated with fracking for oil and gas that are acknowledged by banks and insurance companies, are the same risks that producers and the agencies that regulate them say do not exist at all. As a result, the unmitigated risk is shifted by corporations and government regulators to homeowners who happen to live in close proximity to oil and gas production.

Some banks and mortgage companies do not approve financing for such homes, and some insurance companies are beginning to cancel or deny coverage of properties where oil and gas production is occurring. Because mortgage agreements typically contain prohibitions against hazardous materials on properties subject to mortgages, signing oil and gas leases could well put landowners in breach of their mortgage agreements, triggering loan accelerations or foreclosures.

Reduction in the fair market value of homes located near drilling operations have been documented which produces the ripple effect of shrinking property tax revenues for already-strapped municipalities.

Many claim that oil and gas production is a public good. If it is, then the public should ask if it’s fair to expect private individuals who in many cases do not share in any of the financial benefit, to bear all of the risk.

Marybeth Pritschet

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Several “Letters to the Editor” for all to read

Letter to the editor:

Many communities have passed bans, moratoriums and protective ordinances to address the dangers of the newer method of drilling for gas and oil called high volume horizontal hydraulic fracturing, or ‘fracking’ for short.  Some countries such as Wales, Scotland, France, Germany, Ireland and Bulgaria have instituted bans or moratoriums on fracking.

Vermont and New York have passed statewide bans and twps. counties and cities in Tx, CA, Ohio have passed moratoriums, and ordinances.  Several townships in Michigan have also passed moratoriums and implemented ordinances.  The City of Grand Rapids is working on a moratorium and others are in the works.

Protective ordinances can be developed to address heavy truck traffic, fresh water withdrawals, Pipelines, 24/7 lighting and noise, dangerously open well pads, storage and transport of chemicals, baseline water testing, etc.  Moratoriums are often enacted to provide time to develop good protective ordinances.

Three nonprofit environmental groups have received a grant from the Wege Foundation to help communities develop individualized protective ordinance packages at no cost to the municipality other than travel expenses (from Traverse City).   This week Brian Keeley, from Kent County Water Conservation, presented this information to the Barry County Commissioner’s Committee of the Whole.  The commissioners voted not to accept this opportunity.

Do the commissioners not care about the health and well-being of their citizens?

Do they not want to protect the quiet, clean and peaceful nature of Barry County from industrialization?

At virtually no cost to them or the residents they represent?

What are they thinking?

If you share the concerns of many of our Barry County residents regarding the potential environmental, health and esthetic problems related to fracking, please contact your local government officials.  Urge them to take advantage of assistance from experienced professionals who can help us develop comprehensive protective local ordinances to address the dangers of fracking to our community.  Protect Barry County!

 Jackie Schmitz  3/17/15


Letter to the Editor: Hastings Banner                  

It was a crazy idea 60+ years ago for Michigan to let an oil company put pipelines through the water of the Straits of Mackinaw, across Michigan and the St. Clair River at Port Huron.  Those old pipes are moving 500,000 barrels of heated, heavy tar sands crude oil from Western Canada to China and Europe.

The Enbridge Company operating those old pipes have offered no believable engineering evidence that those pipes are safe.  Of course, the company says the pipes are safe.  What else would you expect?  You remember the Enbridge pipes with the huge oil spill in the Kalamazoo River four years ago.  A leak in water would cause major damage to fishing industry and life there.  Oil companies ought to be required to take complete cost for the damage done from breaks in their pipes.

The public interest demands constant checking on those old pipes and equipment for immediate shut off.  None of this is going on now and it is time this kind of surveillance is installed in the public health interest.  The public ought to demand the best possible protection against a break.

Governor Snyder needs to use his authority to push plans to get those pipes out of the water before disaster ruins life in those waters.  It is impossible to clean up all that tar.  The life of fish and other water life is being risked to help Enbridge sell oil to the world.  Concerned people ought to ask Governor Snyder at P.O. Box 30013, Lansing 48909.  The future of generations unborn demands this.

George C. Williston  28 March, 2015


Board Pass on Wege Grant is a Pass on an Opportunity to Protect Our County

I am disappointed, but not surprised that the Barry County commissioners voted to turn down a $5,000 grant from the Wege Foundation to explore ordinances to control oil and gas development in the county.  At a January public information session on environmental issues in Barry County, Matthew Zimmerman of Varnum Law referenced the Michigan Zoning Enabling Act (125.3205) which states that “a county or township shall not regulate or control the drilling, completion, or operation of oil or gas wells…”  I believe that the outcome of last week’s board meeting was set at that point.  Although the statute only applies to well pads and Mr. Zimmerman went on to explain the wide latitude local municipalities have to regulate other impacts associated with drilling, it seemed at that moment county officials took a free pass to fold back into a Business as Usual policy.

The purpose of the presentation brought to last week’s county commission meeting by the Barry County Community Rights Team, given by Brian Keeley of Kent County Water Conservation, was to preview what the county can do in terms of enacting protective ordinances regarding oil and gas development activities.  Whether or not the process results in ‘new information,’ it would be worth it to send a message to the Michigan legislature, DEQ, and DNR that Barry County is interested in protecting its natural resources from unsustainable and unsafe commercial practices.

“They” (whatever that means to each of us when we think of who is going to protect our land, air, water, health , and ecosystems) are not going to change until “we” change and demand protection of the natural resources we have left.  If the local people in a region don’t protect their own neighborhood, who will?  Not the State, corporations, or federal regulators.   When we demand that our neighborhood be protected, an opportunity like the one proposed in Barry County will be something that the board will be happy to undertake.

Cindy Vigneron

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