Letter in Response to 11/27/2014 Hastings Banner Article on Permits and Fracking

Letter to the Editor from Kat VanHammen, Delton

Regarding the front page article in the Hastings Banner on November 27th entitled, “Permit renews call for county fracking opposition,” I would like to make a few clarifications. First, I was misquoted as saying that the new injection well was being filled with frack waste from out of state. I said that it could be the case but we have not verified it yet. Instead I was quoted as saying that we have not verified exact location of the well. I actually had visited the site the day before and knew exactly where it is. It is sited in Johnston in a residential area with homes nearby. Although I had called the DEQ for info, I was unable to obtain too many details as to exactly what waste was going into the sight and was still working on it. The next speaker, Ms. Skedgell, was able to obtain more info from the DEQ and found that the waste was from oil and gas wells in Barry Co. being drilled by a company from Traverse City.

Semantics play an important role in this issue and many of the terms used are misleading and unclear. For instance, the word “brine” is often used. Brine makes one think of its common usage as salt water. In the oil and gas industry, however, the term brine can refer to anything from salt water to water that comes up from a fracked well that is laden with chemical additives (some known carcinogens) and radioactive materials from the earth. There is also confusion around the word “frack”. The DEQ and the state say that we have been fracking safely for 60 years but the new deep well horizontal methods have only been used in the last several years in MI and have much bigger and more dangerous impacts on a community. Many citizens in our county, even those who have signed leases for their mineral rights, may not yet understand the huge impacts of the industry as it is now.

As for Mr. Stolsonburg’s comments that we cannot do much about the situation before us. There are actually many things we can do on a county level to help keep our community safe and beautiful and maintain the economic opportunities based on tourism, recreation and agriculture that we provide in SW Michigan. A group of local citizens has been researching the issue of how to do this and will be presenting some options to the board of Commissioners soon.

Finally, as to the complaint that the citizen’s comments took too much time, I would ask the Commissioners to find some middle ground. I am very grateful for all those that serve as leaders (Commissioners etc.) and want to respect their time. However, in a time when people are not feeling heard in their government, it is important that folks be allowed to speak up. I had no idea that so many others would be attending that meeting for the same purpose so it would have been impossible to organize one spokesperson. So many people speaking (it was 7 or 8 at most) show that there is deep concern coming from many different parts of the community.  I believe that we can all work together to keep Barry County a wonderful and beautiful and clean place to live.

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Article on Injection Wells

From MLAWD member Cindy Vigneron, Delton

Industry advertises and MDEQ proclaims deep drilling–whether for fracking or hazardous waste injection wells–is safe.  However, these glib assurances are based on the unverified assumption that deep rock layers are impermeable and well casings will last forever.

Respected geologists and engineers point out that long-term deep well integrity is a serious problem; well casings are nearly certain to fail sooner or later; some already have, creating the risk that injected hazardous substances, along with dangerous gases and radiation that nature had locked safely away from us, can make their way up from deep layers via geological anomalies and out of failed casings towards or into groundwater and surface air.

MLAWD board member Karen Fifelski understands this danger well.  “I’m a farmer’s wife and I see how fast cement cracks and crumbles, and I’ve picked enough rocks to know that the earth moves; that’s not helping either the steel or the cement of those casings.”

Yet, with the blessing of MDEQ and Michigan politicians, we already have over 1,000 waste injection wells bored into Michigan bedrock, with industry plans for many more thousands.  As for deep hydraulic fracturing wells for oil/gas production, Michigan is the current bulls eye on the fracking target.  In fact, exploratory wells or dry frack wells might be converted to waste injection wells.

With MDEQ unquestioningly issuing production and high volume water permits, it is only the current low market price of natural gas that’s still applying the brake.  That price is beginning to inch up again towards where industry wants to see it.  Industry already has in hand more than 50 Michigan deep fracking permits, with the production pace accelerating.

Pro Publica reports (http://www.propublica.org/article/injection-wells-the-poison-beneath-us), that in 220,000 inspections performed nationally from 2007 through late 2010, one in six injection wells had documented integrity problems.  More than 7,000 of these showed evidence of well walls leaking.  Because both fracking and injection wells rely on essentially the same technology, they also create the same dangers.

Michigan citizens must be proactive and educate themselves and their representatives about this silent, buried danger.  When it’s out of sight, it’s out of mind—until it isn’t; and shows up again in our water, soils and air.

 

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LTE on Drilling and People’s Rights

Letter to the Editor from MLAWD member George C. Williston, Hastings

A couple of years ago, a few people brought their concerns over the public health dangers of fracking and “injection” wells to the Barry County Board of Commissioners.  With two minutes each, people asked that commissioners do something preventive about those dangers.  As far as I know, the board didn’t do anything.  Now we are told that further pleas to the county board are a waste of time since the board can’t do anything, and furthermore the effort is “futile” (Hastings Banner Nov. 27).  Of course, these requests ask for prevention of future harm to life in the area.

It is a good thing that men on Lexington Green and at Concord Bridge under Col. Prescott facing British Regiments on the 19th of April 1775 didn’t slink away seeing their hope for freedom as futile.  We might still be British had they done that.  Many times over in the history of this country, people have faced great odds to get and keep the rights they have, and didn’t give up and melt away in hopelessness.

Actually, the rights of local people and even the rights of property owners are being snuffed out by Michigan Department of Environmental Quality, laws, courts, and the Michigan Legislature in the matters of fracking and injection wells.  People trying to prevent drilling on public land in Barry and Allegan counties were turned away by the courts in both counties.  Recently, an oil well was permitted by the MDEQ near Ann Arbor in Scio Township, I believe, over the protest of local people and their elected local organizations.  The DEQ permitter said the well was not within 600 feet of a house.  Would anyone in their right mind want an oil well clanging, banging, and lighted up 24 hours a day 600 feet from their house?  Or drilling on public land?  The DEQ operates in the interest of oil companies, and not in the long-term public interest of life in Michigan.

The options of the county board may have been narrowed by the party in power in the Michigan Legislature.  That right remains to be challenged by commissioners who have a commitment to the public health of people living here now and in the future.  To represent the long-term interest of people of Barry County, the board has to work to find ways to challenge existing limits and not be put down by any perception of the opposition, whether it includes loyalties to the political party in power in Lansing and/or the governor.  There is a long-term danger to public health from modern slick water, high‑pressure fracking and the injection wells which can be further explained to those commissioners willing to listen.

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LTE DECEMBER 2014 MICHIGAN UPDATE FOR HORIZONTAL HYDRAULIC FRACTURING

As of October 2014 there have been 47 high volume horizontal fractured (HVHF) wells permitted in Michigan, with 21 wells drilled and 5 permits pending.  Eight wells are producing.  Michigan’s natural gas development is and will continue to be largely for export, not in-state use.   There are two known wells that have leaked.  They were in Benzie and Kalkaska counties in 2011.

We have 1500 Class II wells used for brine (waste) disposal.   Most were former gas/oil production wells.  According to Chris Grobbel, a former DEQ employee, it is difficult to tell how many of these old wells were improperly abandoned and could provide a conduit for upward migration of injected wastes.

Encana recently pulled out of Michigan and sold its mineral rights to Marathon.  The DNR auction continues for mineral rights on state land.  The mineral rights in the Hartwick Pines were to be included in the fall auction.   Because of outcry from the public and from the family that had donated this land many years ago, it was taken off the list.

Many communities in Michigan are concerned about the fragmenting of rural areas, noise, environmental damage, decreased property values and many other things.  Townships like Scio and Shelby have already seen drilling as close as 450 feet from homes.  These townships and others are very busy educating their communities and working on the repeal of Section 205(2) of the Michigan Zoning Enabling Act, which has taken much of the power for self-determination away from townships.  Other towns are working towards a ban on fracking basing it on citizens local right for self-governing.  Some are leaning towards franchise agreements and still others are reviewing their ordinances for ways to protect their communities from the hazards and industrialization of drilling.  Next summer you will have another opportunity to sign a petition to ban fracking in Michigan.

I ask that you consider what we risk by not acting to protect our environment.  Consider contacting Governor Snyder and your state and local representatives.  Let them know of your concerns with HVHF.  Ask that our communities be given back the right to determine what we want in our own communities.   Repeal Section 205 (2) of the Michigan Zoning Enabling Act now, before fracking takes off in Michigan and it’s too late.

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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.

SPONSORED BY MICHIGAN LAND, AIR, WATER DEFENSE

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Letter Regarding Michigan and the Environment

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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