Article courtesy by Marc Thompson | Nov 12, 2012| Source:
ALLEGAN, Mich. (WOOD) – The flap over fracking has reached Allegan County.
Controversy about the mining process increased after the Michigan Department of Natural Resources leased the oil and mineral rights of more public land to oil and gas companies at two auctions this year. It affects tens of thousands of acres and is big money for the state.
But environmental groups say fracking pollutes the air and water.
Several environmental groups spoke to Allegan residents Monday night, outlining what they say are the environmental dangers of fracking. They also provided ways to discourage fracking.
In the most recent auction last month, the mineral rights to more than 200,000 acres of public land were auctioned off to oil and gas companies. Some of the affected land was in the Allegan State Gaming Area. And while the companies can’t actually set up a drill on the surface in state parks and forests, they can approach private land owners, drill on their property and reach gas on state land that way.
Mary Colborn runs an organic farm in Allegan and is worried about the impact fracking will have on the food she grows.
“I’m concerned,” she said. “Will I have enough water? Will people have enough water?”
The process of fracking requires pumping water, sand and chemicals deep beneath the surface to unlock natural gas from the rocks and soil.
Environmentalists say the amount of water used in the process — 5 to 7 million gallons per well — puts an incredible strain on the watershed and releases dangerous chemicals. They say the wells, trucks and equipment pollute the air and the entire process can create earthquakes.
“They’re drilling using high-pressure water,” said Wenonah Hauter, executive director of Food and Water Watch Michigan, which is based in Washington, D.C. “Chemicals like benzene, toluene. They’re drilling a mile deep underground shooting these chemicals under high pressure.”
The DNR has made more than $14 million from the past two leases. That money goes to purchasing more state land.
The Michigan Department of Environmental Quality regulates fracking activity. Communications Director for the DEQ Brad Wurfel said the oil and mineral auctions are nothing new. The DEQ has authorized 12,000 wells over the past 50 years and says there have been no adverse affects on the environment.
Wurful challenged the organizers of Monday’s meeting to come up with concrete evidence to the contrary. He says good regulation by the state over the past six decades has prevented any environmental side effects from fracking.
“If the industry were hurting the environment, we would ban it,” he said.
24 Hour News 8 asked Hauter about concrete evidence of fracking’s environmental impact in Michigan. While she couldn’t point to anything specific in this state, she did point to studies done in Pennsylvania and the state of Wyoming. She said Wyoming no longer meets federal air quality standards because of the air pollution produced by the fracking process.
While state laws prevent zoning against the construction of the wells themselves, organizers of the Monday meeting outlined ways residents can zone against other aspects of the fracking process, like noise from equipment and number of trucks.
“The risk is too great. Not just for us in Allegan or in Michigan, but for the whole world, that we could have this water contaminated,” said Colborn.
One of the groups involved in the meeting, the Michigan Land Air Water Defense, has a lawsuit pending that would overturn leases sold at the May and October auctions. The group’s end goal is to eliminate all fracking on public land.