Public Comment Period on University of Michigan Graham Institute Draft Report on Hydraulic Fracturing in Michigan Open until March 30, 2015

The draft integrated assessment report on hydraulic fracturing in Michigan from the University of Michigan Graham Institute is available for review and public comment through March 30.  The Hydraulic Fracturing in Michigan Integrated Assessment has been underway since 2012 to evaluate the best environmental, social, and technological approaches for managing hydraulic fracturing in the State of Michigan.

The first phase of the project was the preparation of technical reports on key topics related to hydraulic fracturing in Michigan that were released by the Graham Institute in Sept. 2013.  The document now available for review is the draft version of the final report for the integrated assessment.  The draft report and access to the online public comment area can be found here:

http://graham.umich.edu/knowledge/ia/hydraulic-fracturing/draft-ia

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Movie to be shown

Documentary movie  Living Downstream  to be shown in the Hasting Public Library, February 18, 2015.

For further details, click here to see the flyer.

SPONSORED BY:

SIERRA CLUB SOUTHWEST MI GROUP

AND

 MICHIGAN LAND, AIR, WATER DEFENSE

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Article regarding Enbridge pipelines in Michigan

ENSURING THAT GREAT LAKES LIFE LASTS

Bridge Magazine of the Center for Michigan, in a 5 December 2014 Guest Commentary by Professors Jim Hill and Ken Winter, suggests a market-based approach to a possible awful oil spill in the Straits of Mackinaw.  The 61-year-old Line 5 pipes of Enbridge Energy Partners could break.  Of course, Enbridge claims the old pipes are perfectly safe.  Remember also that old Enbridge pipes take crude oil across the upper St. Clair River from Port Huron to Sarnia and also are subject to a huge spill into Lake St. Clair and the Detroit River.

Hill and Winter suggest that Enbridge sign an agreement with the State of Michigan that Enbridge would be solely and strictly liable for any spill caused by their pipelines on and/or in water.  Michigan gave Enbridge an easement on Michigan land 60-some years ago and Governor Snyder has authority along with the Federal government on those old pipes.

Michigan Radio interviewed Hill and Winter in their Stateside program on 23 December, 2014.  They revealed other important details of the situation.  Hill and Winter cast justifiable doubt on the Michigan government committee which, while well-intended, may be toothless and a simple delay of any real action.  Hill and Winter prefer to avoid government-controlled efforts to fix the potential disaster short of getting the pipelines out of the water entirely.  That interview is or was on the website of Michigan Radio.

Concerned people want action now; and not a lifetime later as risk increases and/or untold damage occurs.  It has to be recognized that any spill in the waters of the Straits or the St. Clair River will be monumentally disastrous and cannot really be cleaned up anyway.  The Enbridge spill in the Kalamazoo River has cost more than a billion dollars, some of which was taxpayer money.  A Straits or St. Clair River spill “clean up” could easily cost several times that amount.

Concerned people need to contact Governor Rick Snyder at P.O. Box 30013, Lansing 48909.  Ask the Governor to use his authority to get an airtight agreement with Enbridge to hold that company wholly and completely liable for damage from another spill.  Secondly, ask the Governor to order steps to insure the complete integrity of the old pipes in the meantime while working to get the pipes replaced on land or bypassed altogether.

George C. Williston

Hastings, Michigan

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Barry County Board of Commissioners Considering Allowing Presentation on Fracking and Water Protection

The Barry County Board of Commissioners is considering whether to allow a group of citizens from Orangeville Township to make a presentation to the board on fracking and water protection in Barry County.

Many of the Orangeville folks are MLAWD members and members of the Barry County Community Rights team and we support their efforts to get this issue before the board!

Contact your board rep with support for allowing this meeting. Here is a map of the county commissioner districts:

http://www.barrycounty.org/MAPS/MapPDFs/Ccommdist2012.pdf

Here is the contact information for the board members:

http://www.barrycounty.org/depts/board/

Read the article here:

http://hastingsbanner.com/

HASTINGSBANNER.COM

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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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