Join us on May 1 at 6:30 p.m. at Salt of the Earth Restaurant in Fennville!

Join us on May 1 at 6:30 p.m. at Salt of the Earth Restaurant in Fennville!

Salt of the Earth is located at 114 East Main Street, Fennville, MI 49408

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Letter Regarding April 10 MLAWD Hearing in Allegan Court

At least 80 people crowded the courtroom of Judge Bakker on April 10 to hear oral argument on the MI DNR motion for summary disposition of the MLAWD lawsuit.  Judge Bakker will issue a written decision within a couple of weeks.  Please see a letter regarding the hearing below:

If Michigan Land Air Water Defense loses its lawsuit against the Michigan Department of Natural Resources, there will never be any meaningful review of environmental effects of oil and gas development on the Allegan State Game Area or on any other public land in our state. The MDNR says it doesn’t have to conduct such a review before it auctions off leases on thousands of acres of recreational, game and forest land every spring and fall because the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality will take care of it later when it issues permits to drill.

           There are two major problems with that. First, when the MDEQ processes permit applications it looks only at one isolated drilling application at a time and additional separate permits needed for water withdrawal and other necessary infrastructure to service that one well pad. Second, our courts hold that when the MDNR sells leases it also transfers substantive property rights to the companies so if the MDEQ were to deny a permit to drill, the company can sue for money damages based on an uncompensated “taking” of their property rights. The last time this happened, the company won $90 million from our state’s coffers.

  Since its passage in 1970, the Michigan Environmental Protection Act requires all agencies of state government to at least consider what the possible environmental effects might be before taking actions. The MDNR and MDEQ have devised an exemption for themselves – - and for the companies – - from the basic requirements of the law so that they never have to consider over-all effects of oil and gas development of the 12,000 acres they leased in the Allegan State Game Area in September 2012 , including such components as effects of high volume water withdrawal on viability of wetlands, marshes, stream flow, residential and farm water wells, air quality, nesting bird  populations, fragmentation of forests by roads and pipelines, and human health and public safety.

 This is not good government or proper stewardship of public land. The MDNR should accept its legal duties, rather than fighting so hard to shirk them. It owes us, the Allegan State Game Area and future generations far better.

 Marybeth Pritschet

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Judge to Hear Oral Arguments on Advancement of Group’s Lawsuit Against the State of Michigan

For Immediate Release
Contact:  Steve Losher, President, Michigan Land Air Water Defense
                stevelosher@aol.com269-623-3116 or 269-251-0956
                                                                           April 2, 2014
Judge to Hear Oral Arguments on Advancement of Group’s Lawsuit Against the State of Michigan

    At 1:30 p.m., Thursday, April 10 Allegan County Circuit Court Judge Margaret Bakker will hear oral arguments to determine if a citizen group’s public interest lawsuit against the Michigan Department of Natural Resources (MDNR) may proceed. The lawsuit, brought by Michigan Land Air Water Defense (MLAWD), contests the validity of extensive oil and gas leasing of publicly owned mineral rights in the Allegan State Game Area in Allegan County. The MDNR auctioned the leases in 2012.

    The group’s claims center on the prospect of oil and gas development, including hydraulic fracturing, occurring around, under or within the state game and recreation area which is home to wildlife sanctuaries. MLAWD maintains the MDNR sold the leases without due consideration of potential impacts associated with production of unconventional oil and gas deposits. As such, the group argues the leases violate provisions of the Michigan Environmental Protection Act and the Michigan Constitution as well as established case law.
    The MDNR is seeking dismissal of the suit on the grounds it is premature and unnecessary, arguing impacts can be assessed on a permit-by-permit basis. “The MDNR claims that our concerns can be addressed by the Department of Environmental Quality (MDEQ) at the well-permitting stage”, says MLAWD President, Steve Losher, “but the fact is that the MDEQ has almost never denied an oil and gas permit so the time to deal with these issues is before the minerals are leased.” Losher referred specifically to Miller Energy v. MDNR, a case heard in the mid-1990′s in which the State of Michigan was successfully sued by the oil and gas developer for denying drilling permits in the Nordhouse Dunes area where Miller Energy held state mineral leases. The MDNR was required to pay the company $90 million dollars in compensation for the agency’s decision not to approve drilling permits on the leased state lands. “I suspect the state is loath to repeat the Miller Energy scenario”, he said. “Our view is that rather than exposing MDEQ to liability for denying a permit, the MDNR should uphold its public trust duty by not leasing these minerals until proper environmental analyses have been completed.”
    MLAWD is also seeking reform and clarification of the MDNR”s oil and gas lease classification policies and procedures. Losher said, “It’s important to note that the MDNR classifies leases, it doesn’t classify lands. To consider the current lease classification system a ‘land management’ tool is not a fully informed view. The process is illusory, at best.” Losher explained that “nondevelopment leases” are routinely reclassified, amended or subject to variances by the state agency to allow surface development. These changes occur largely under the radar, with little or no opportunity for public scrutiny or input. That’s how drill rigs, roads, pipelines and other infrastructure ended up on public land in central and northern regions of Michigan – - the absence of thorough environmental impact analysis. We’re trying to prevent that from happening here.”
    The courthouse is located at 113 Chestnut St. Allegan, MI 49010.
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Pipeline Letter to the Editor Jan 2014

By Karen Fifelski

On Thanksgiving evening a pipeline exploded  in Missouri with a 300-foot fireball in the air. On New Year’s Eve there was another pipeline explosion in Texas. More recently in North Dakota there was the train crash and explosion. The train was carrying crude oil from North Dakota. This explosion is the 3rd train accident in the past 6 months transporting North Dakota crude oil. One of these accidents led to the deaths of 50 people. These incidents are becoming more frequent and too numerous to name in this space, but they are all over the United States, with varying degrees of severity.

According to Forbes (1/29/13) there are 2.5 million miles of existing natural gas pipelines in the U.S. Half were installed prior to 1970, meaning the standards were lower. With the recent use of horizontal hydraulic fracturing (HHF), gas producers say that 29,000 – 62,000 miles of new pipeline will be needed over the next 25 years. Trains have become a means of transporting the huge supply of gas/oil due to the lack of pipeline infrastructure.

While reviewing the lists of pipeline accidents, the reasons given for the leaks were anywhere from old pipelines, lack of methods to detect structural weaknesses, no shutoff valves, flaws in the welds, lack of maintenance, and human error.  These disasters have led to destruction of personal property, environmental pollution, human injury, and even death.

Do we really want to invest so much and put so much at risk to pursue a resource that will run out? Estimates range anywhere from 10 – 100 years. Both are a minimal gain for so much risk.  Shouldn’t we be thinking bigger and further into the future? This week on National Public Radio, Governor Snyder stated that Michigan has the resources to provide 30% of our energy from renewable sources. Let’s do it! Start getting rid of the coal, natural gas and nuclear plants.

This problem affects all of us. It is our decision and our responsibility. If you want more information on this topic, check out the website:      energy-reality.org 

[Sent to Allegan, Saugatuck, Wayland and Hastings]

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MLAWD January Fundraiser at Seasonal Grille, Hastings

Please join us for a 5 course wine dinner on Thursday, January 23 at 6:30 pm.  Make your reservations early because the event sold out last time!  Reserve your spot no later than Tuesday, January 21 by calling 269 948 9222.

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Update on Fall Matching Gifts Fundraiser

Our fundraiser met 95% of the goal of $10,000, bringing in $9,500 that was matched by a generous donor. Many thanks to all who donated to help us meet this important goal! This money is earmarked to take the legal effort forward in Allegan County. More updates will follow as activity is scheduled in the Allegan court.

We are still raising funds to retire the legal debt incurred to date ($3,000 per month payments). Please consider MLAWD in your end of year donations.

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Think Again About Fracking

By Karen Fifelski

I have been reflecting on conversations and things I have learned this past year.  I have listened to many people for and against horizontal hydraulic fracturing (HHF).  It is a difficult issue, because standing against HHF is asking us to determine our priorities and also demands action.  I challenge each of us do more than what the natural gas commercials ask when they say, “Think about it.”  I ask that we “Think again and hard.”

One of the many joys of living in Michigan has been the beauty of our vast natural resources and the abundance of fresh water.  HHF permanently consumes millions of gallons of water per well and industrializes our rural landscapes.  In fact, Michigan has already set records in water use, having already permitted the use of 21 million gallons of water to frack a single well.  No matter what value you put on water, it is always more valuable than oil.  We’ve heard of the drought-stricken states out west—add the growing number of wells fracked, the irrigation of crops, lawns, and golf courses, and the needs for our cities and towns—and we could very easily experience water fresh water scarcity.  Just because Michigan has a lot of water doesn’t mean we have an infinite supply.  We are in a race between increasing technology and catastrophe.  Think again?  Just because we can do something, does it mean we should?

The EPA’s website claims the mission of protecting human health and our environment.  Where are they in this debate?  According to the EPA’s website, Michigan alone has over 60 Superfund cleanup sites; 6 are in Allegan County and one is in the city of Allegan.  How many hazardous waste sites will we allow?  What happens to the hazardous waste from the sites they clean up?

We are now allowing the controversial practice of high volume horizontal hydraulic fracturing all over the United States and we do not even know the long-term consequences.  We have seen indications of some of the short term dangers, like earthquakes near injection wells, methane seepage into private water wells and into the atmosphere, pipelines breaking due to ill repair, and the fracturing of rural communities.

Time is running out to do the right thing.  This issue speaks loudly to us as a society to make some hard choices and do the right thing.  Our Federal and State governments have embraced the oil/gas boom by clearing the way, with little regard to the effects for our future.  They would have us think that we have no alternative to carbon fuel, stating we “need the jobs and money”.

What can you do?  Allegan and Barry County’s state lands are being threatened by our State and Federal governments because they have already leased the mineral rights to these areas for the potential use of HHF.  It doesn’t matter who you are, you can help by phoning or writing letters to your representatives demanding that they step up to the plate by putting a moratorium on using HHF until the research is completed and the results are in.  Michigan Land Air and Water Defense is a local group that is dedicated to protect our State Game Area, but they need your help, your voice (www.mlawd.org).

The natural gas commercial says, “Thinks about it.”   I say “Think again and think hard.”  Some things are irreplaceable and more valuable than oil or jobs.

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