Michigan enters the “fracking” fray

26 May 2011

This week, the State of Michigan announced new requirements regarding hydraulic fracturing, or ‘fracking.’  Fracking is a process used to extract natural gas by pressurizing underground wells with water and sand and chemicals to break-up formations and maximize well production.  Here’s an “anti video” (turn down your sound – it’s a bit loud) that describes the process and the opposition.  

Fracking began in the 1940s. Michigan oil and gas operators have used it since the 1960s mostly in the upper lower Penninsula, largely without incident.

The process came under national scrutiny in recent months as other states discovered environmental damage from ways that certain operators disposed of used ‘fracking fluid’ and concerns with either natural gas or fracking chemicals winding up unexpectedly in groundwater.  There is even a documentary film about it with some fairly graphic scenes of flaming tapwater.  Earlier this month, representatives of a number of environmental groups asked the Governor and Legislature to halt hydraulic fracturing until safety and health concerns are addressed and energy companies are required to disclose procedures.  This was prompted by new reports (including a recent Propublica Report making a number of policy recommendations at the  national level) and a recognition that gas companies are focusing on reserves here in Michigan that were previously not economical to extract.  

The new requirements regarding fracking announced this week include requiring operators to:

  • Changes to water usage oversight: document where they plan to get the fresh water used in the process to guard against impacting neighborings by siphoning water away from them. They will also be required to monitor the effects of water withdrawls and report the total volume of fracturing water recovered during operation.
  • Reporting: disclose data on the chemical additives used in fracking and will post that information on the department’s Web site for public review. 
  • Recordkeeping: submit fracturing records and charts showing fracturing volumes, rates, and pressures.

Leave a Comment Below

Leave a Reply