What The Frack? Natural Gas Debate Resurfaces in MI

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     In 2010, Environmental advocates and concerned citizens gaped at the documentary Gasland which shows people lighting tap water on fire as a result of methane leaks due to “fracking”, a controversial natural gas extraction method linked to ground water contamination. The process involves breaking into shale rock below ground water levels to acess methane. Once the rock is broken, gas released can potentially seep upward into water supplies if not extracted correctly.

    A Michigan Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) spokesperson has decried the film, stating that the images in Gasland are not accurate.

    Today, the debate over fracking and its dangers and benefits continues in Michigan as Governor Rick Snyder announced a plan Wednesday to increase the state’s production of natural gas.

    On Wednesday, Snyder said the best way to tap into Michigan’s plentiful natural gas deposits is to research safe ways to expand the use of fracking. He said an increase of the drilling process will result in lower gas bills for Michigan residents:

    “We’ve been doing fracking for over a decade with some of the toughest regulations in the country and it’s worked well,” he said. “Fracking is something that is very serious and it needs to be done the right way.”

    According to a report in The Detroit News, Michigan plans to team up with the University of Michigan’s Graham Sustainability Institute on a two-year, $600,000 study of best practices for the use of fracking. The increase in fracking may not be halted by the DEQ.

    In October Michigan DEQ communications director Brad Wurfel declared hydraulic fracturing, or “fracking” a safe method under the right controls and decried the controversial documentary that smeared the practice.

     Wurfel told The Rockford Quire:

    “I’ve seen Gasland and it’s a fun movie, but it isn’t real. In Michigan in 60 years and 12,000 wells there has never been a single incident associated with fracking. People get really excited about this. We are the Department of Environmental Quality, we protect the land, air and water. If something was going to damage those resources we would shut it down or outlaw it.”

    But there are those who counter Wurfel’s statement, citing a scientific study that linked flammable drinking water to fracking.

    On a federal level, the Obama Administration tightened fracking regulations this May, implementing laws requiring the disclosure of chemicals used in the process when done on federal and American Indian lands.

    Still, the issue is hotly contested at a state and national level. Those who rely on ground water to drink worry about the affects of fracking. But under the right controls, many argue that it’s a step toward Michigan becoming more energy independent.

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