Movie to be shown

Documentary movie   Living Downstream   to be shown in the Kalamazoo Public Library, January 6, 2015.

For further details, click here to see the flyer.


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Letter Regarding Michigan and the Environment


I am very concerned with the path that Michigan has chosen to take in regards to our environment which affects our quality of life and health.  I would like to list a few issues that have made the news in the past few years.  We have accepted Canada’s trash, dumping of petroleum coke in Detroit, poor monitoring of the Enbridge Pipeline leading to the largest inland oil spill in the U. S, allowing runoff into Lake Erie causing “blue green algae” or cyanobacteria, radioactive leaks into Lake Michigan from an energy plant, allowing record setting use  and destruction of fresh water to drill for oil, acceptance of low-level radioactive sludge from Pennsylvania oil and gas drilling (as a result of public outcry, the latest shipment was suspended pending review by the DEQ, but a facility near Belleville is licensed to accept this waste and has done so in the past) ,  and to top it off we have 65 superfund sites in Michigan, one of them being in Allegan.   There are so many more, but this gives you an idea of the seriousness of this issue and the need to change our ways.

By 2015 Michigan may have 10% of our energy from renewable sources.  That seems like such a measly goal, considering that Germany, who is north of Michigan already obtains 30% of its energy from solar.   Germany’s energy is among the most innovative and successful worldwide.  They have gone from 6.3% renewables in 2000 to 30% in 2014! Germany had some 370,000 people employed in the renewable sector in 2010. They made a commitment and followed through.   We can do it too, but it requires full participation.  It has started at a grassroots level.  We need dedicated leaders to help the process.   I don’t see that we have any choice if we want future generations to have any quality of life.

Karen Fifleski

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‘Energy Freedom’ Bills: Time to Unlock Homemade Power in Michigan

A bipartisan group of state representatives has introduced four bills, known as the Energy Freedom package.

House Bill HB 5673 would lift net metering limits on the number and size of systems, including solar panels, wind turbines, and methane digesters.

House Bill HB 5674 concerns Community Renewable Energy Gardens. This refers to encouraging investment in, building of, and sharing credits jointly from customers’ own renewable systems on a net metered basis, and requires utilities to purchase the power.

House Bill HB 5675 addresses the concerns of utilities as to whether their grids can handle solar and wind power’s many ups and downs, and weather-related outages.

House Bill HB 5676 would require utilities to pay for electricity from customer-built, distributed power systems using either current retail rates or one determined by experts.

Read the complete article here.

Source: Michigan Land Use Institute

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Important and Timely Information for Members

MDEQ Proposed Fracking Rules:

 How to Submit Written Public Comments and Attend Public Hearings

The MDEQ has set dates and locations for two Public Hearings on changes it is proposing to rules governing high volume slickwater hydraulic fracturing (HVHF). Under the Michigan Administrative Procedures Act, agencies such as the MDEQ are required to hold hearings and also invite written comments from the public whenever it writes new rules or changes old ones. This is our only opportunity to weigh in on the rule-making process.

The public hearings will be held:

July 15, 2014, at 6:30 to 9:30 p.m. at the Treetops Resort, 3962 Wilkinson Road, Gaylord, Michigan 49735

July 16, 2014, at 6:30 to 9:30 p.m., at the Lansing Center, 333 East Michigan Avenue, Lansing, Michigan 48933.

The proposed rules can be seen on the web here:

The changes to the rules proposed by MDEQ certainly will not make HVHF safe because it is a dangerous industrial activity conducted in the open air and through soils and groundwater, but some of the changes are at least baby steps in the right direction.

If the MDEQ conducts these Public Hearings as it has conducted others, there will be only 2 or 3 minutes allotted to each person with no certainty that the length of the hearing will be sufficient to allow each person to speak. Therefore, if you attend, it is important that you bring a written comment to submit. If you do not attend, MDEQ will accept written public comments that are received by July 31, 2014. Comments can be sent electronically or by regular mail to:

 Office of Oil, Gas and Minerals

Michigan Department of Environmental Quality

P. O. Box 30256

Lansing, MI 48909-7756

*this e-mail address is case-sensitive

 On the MLAWD website Resources page (  is a comment jointly submitted by six organizations that are concerned with one or more of the many environmental problems created by HVHF. The groups did a great job identifying infirmities in the highly technical provisions, and also identifying additional areas in need of regulation that are not included in the proposed changes. However, the joint comment is silent as to needed regulations to address significant air pollution and degradation of air quality due to escape of methane and heavy use of massive diesel engines on and off drilling pads. Therefore, MLAWD encourages you to include this area of needed regulation in your comment.

The groups are: Anglers of the Au Sable, Michigan Environmental Council, Michigan League of Conservation Voters, Michigan Trout Unlimited, National Wildlife Federation and Tip of the Mitt Watershed Council.

You will see that the rules, proposed changes and comment by these organizations are highly technical. That does not mean that your comment also must be technical. Following is a distillation of some of the points raised by these groups.

 Well Spacing:

One of the rules changes deals with spacing requirements between drill bores. The six groups point out that the proposed change actually waters down existing requirements rather than makes them more stringent. Drill spacing is important because without proper distances there can be “interference” between well bores when one is fractured. This is extremely dangerous.

 Acidizing Wells:

The process of “acidizing” a well should also be subject to the rules because, as the six groups point out, the same or similar hazardous chemicals are used, and the process poses similar risks.

 Trade Secrets:

Claims of “trade secrets” shield companies from having to disclose precisely what mix of chemicals they use at any given site.  The proposed rules contain no definition, criteria or standard that would constitute what does or does not qualify as a trade secret which is necessary before there could be any meaningful regulation.

  High Volume Water Withdrawals:

Similarly, in the context of approving high volume water withdrawals, the rules recite the phrase “environmentally sound and economically feasible water conservation measures”. However, the six groups point out that no such conservation measures have been identified as applying to the oil and gas industry. Therefore, this also appears to be a toothless standard.

Rules involving contingency planning should include the requirement that if nearby residents begin to experience water well failure, there should be a requirement that high volume water withdrawals must stop or an alternative drinking water supply must be provided.

The MDEQ has come under criticism for using computer software (Water Withdrawal Assessment Tool) to permit high volume water withdrawals. This software was not designed for the purpose for which the MDEQ is using it, and it has not been updated as recommended by the designer. The six groups urge that when there will be cumulative withdrawals of more than 5 million gallons of water, the MDEQ must conduct site specific assessments and monitoring on the ground to evaluate actual impacts to streams, wetlands and water table levels.

 Baseline Water Testing:

The proposed rule that would require baseline testing of groundwater needs much improvement. It should not be limited to groundwater but must also include surface water, streams, lakes and wetlands because there is routine spillage of hazardous substances on the surface.  Sampling must not be limited to just a ¼ mile radius from the drill pad. Also, language must be clarified to require that samples must be taken before drilling begins, that standard protocols accepted by the scientific and legal community must be followed, that testing must also occur after fracturing, and a shorter time period must be set for the companies to release results of testing to the public. Importantly, the new rule also must require testing for a broader range of substances than just BTEX, TDS, chloride and methane.

 Notice to First Responders:

A proposed rule includes some notice to area first responders but the rule is limited to wells where drillers expect to run into hydrogen sulfide. Earlier notification as to all wells that covers all activity must be included; there are also serious risks involving storage and transport of chemicals that the rule also does not touch on.

 Outlawing Flowback on Roads:

After the infamous MDEQ approval of spreading flowback on roads for dust control, the agency issued a directive prohibiting this practice. The agency directive must be included in these formal rules to insure that it would be harder to rescind it.

 Disclosure of Chemicals:

There are provisions proposed for disclosure of some of the chemicals companies use, but the rule as presently drafted is unacceptable. Among other things, the six groups recommend that public disclosure occur before fracturing begins so that nearby residents can test their water wells to establish baseline water quality and so that first responders know what they will face if an emergency situation develops. The groups also strongly urge the MDEQ to require disclosure on a government website rather than on the informal site known as FracFocus.

 Additional Reforms Needed

The six groups identify other areas where regulation is inadequate or absent and is needed to protect the environment and the general health, safety and welfare: management of wastes; fees and financial assurances; leasing and production on sensitive or high value lands, public participation and transparency, seismicity (earth quakes), and traffic management and other protections for local communities and ecosystems.


Please submit a comment and, if possible, attend one of the Public Hearings so the MDEQ knows that the public is watching this rulemaking process. Please also pass this along to friends, co-workers and family members, and encourage them to submit their own comment.

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Letter to the Editor

Oil and gas companies are keeping a big secret from local land owners. They have quietly purchased new oil and gas development leases covering vast areas of Allegan and Barry Counties but because there is no law requiring them to record their leases at Register of Deeds Offices, many have not. This leaves homeowners in the dark about the status of land surrounding them. When leases are not recorded, title searches cannot show their existence. This is very convenient for oil and gas companies because secrecy prevents citizen opposition to their plans.

For almost all of us, our homes are our biggest investment. Not surprisingly, studies show that oil and gas development reduces the value of nearby properties because it is a heavy industrial use of land. Reduction in land values will also reduce local property tax bases, generating less revenue for the needs of townships.

Michigan law also does not require that notice be given to adjoining private property owners when companies apply for permits to begin drilling. That too would be inconvenient.

It is time for our legislators to become a little less cozy with the oil and gas industry and a little more concerned about the average home owner. At the very least our legislators must require companies to record their leases, and require the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality to provide individual notice to adjoining land owners as soon as companies apply for permits to drill.

(This was sent to the Allegan News and the Barry County newspaper.)

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Oil and Gas Development Needs Citizen Monitoring

Outdated information and misconceptions fostered by public relations firms hired by gas and oil industry firms who work hand-in-hand with Michigan regulators are allowing some people to believe there is little or no risk involved in extracting hydrocarbons using new technologies.  But the fact is that there are (and always have been) releases and significant risks associated with oil and gas operations.  The air pollution, hydrologic impacts, spills, waste, and leak risks from these operations are real and should be a focus for citizen vigilance.

Citizen vigilance has always been a cornerstone of environmental regulatory structure.  We hear a lot of things from the public relations firms hired by the oil and gas industry and our state regulators.  The rosey outlook put forward does not reflect full disclosure of the risks of extraction operations.  Rather, they are industry talking points.  Along with our Allegan and Barry County neighbors, we should all educate ourselves and pay attention to activities in our communities.  We should not look the other way and tell ourselves the government will take care of it.

We might expect to see more exploratory oil and gas activity in our rural neighborhoods in the near future.  A company doing seismic testing on our rural roads might soon apply for a permit to drill.  Ask yourself if a well on this location makes sense from a human health or environmental standpoint (you don’t have to be an expert, just have plain old common sense).  Control of hydrocarbon extraction operations is not as tight as the industry would like us to think.  If they put a well in your township, what or who would be affected down wind, downstream, or down the hill?

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Let’s Talk Water

More than 15 million people live within one mile of an oil well that has been drilled since 2000.  We know that the Great Lakes provide about 20% of the world’s fresh water.    Oil and gas has leased 84,000 acres of national forest along the Great Lakes and much more inland.  These waters and others are being threatened, so the importance of our fresh water cannot be overstated.

Some say that there is no proof that fracking is harmful.  I will name a few proven incidents that provide reason for great alarm.   Steve Lipsky in Parker County, Texas and others have complained of methane in their water since 2010.  News 8 recently reported that scientists have proven through isotopic analysis that fracking is to blame for the methane contamination of the Lipsky’s well.   The Texas regulatory agency continues to use the “deny and delay” tactics to enable this practice to continue.

In August 2013, an Analysis of Fish from Acorn Fork Creek, Kentucky Exposed to Hydraulic Fracturing Fluids Release, found that a major fish die off was due to a surface spill of hydraulic fracturing fluids into a stream.

Shale gas is a black hole for water use.   The Environment America Research and Policy Center reports that in 2012, 280 billion gallons of toxic wastewater were generated by fracking.  Michigan still holds the record for the largest amount used for a single well- 21 million gallons.  The DEQ has put permits into company hands allowing extraction of many billions more.

We know that there are many chemicals added to the water to assist in the fracking process.  Let’s talk about one – benzene.  We already know benzene causes leukemia.  Do we really want to wait 20-30 years for another study to show that when benzene is used in fracking that this also can cause leukemia?

Did you know that just because state land is classified as ‘nondevelopment’, this doesn’t protect it from the effects of fracking?   Roads, traffic, tanks, water well drilling, pipelines and other industrial infrastructure are allowed on this land that is subject to leasing.  Oil and gas companies state that the state and state regulators should have control over where they drill, but it seems like a conflict of interest with the MDEQ making millions for the auctioning of these mineral leases.

We are being asked to trust companies that have been accused in Michigan of racketeering and fraud.   So far State and Federal leaders have either passed the buck or exempted them from regulations that were once in place.  According to a recent survey by University of Michigan, a majority of Michigan residents would support a moratorium on additional fracking until more is known about the possible risks.  Let’s not waste any more time and water.

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