Michigan Chamber Official Policy Relating to Responsible Energy Exploration in Michigan

APPROVED BY
BOARD OF DIRECTORS
APRIL 30, 2013

The Michigan Chamber supports the current regulatory framework to allow oil and gas exploration in Michigan associated with shale resources and hydraulic fracturing. The process of hydraulic fracturing is proven safe and protective of human health and the environment as demonstrated over 50 years and 12,000 wells drilled using this technique in Michigan. The Chamber opposes any attempt to ban the use of hydraulic fracturing for development of shale resources including a potential ballot initiative.

Background

On February 15, 2013, the State Board of Canvassers approved petition language for a potential legislative initiative that would ban the use of hydraulic fracturing in Michigan. The current ballot proposal is being pushed by the same group of environmentalists that attempted to put this issue on the ballot last election cycle but failed to collect the needed signatures. They are off to an early start this cycle and we expect they will be able to acquire the needed signatures to place this issue before the voters in November 2014. We do not yet know all of the organizations involved; however, we do know that the Sierra Club and Clean Water Action are actively circulating the petitions. The official name of the ballot question committee is the Committee to Ban Fracking in Michigan. In the committee’s kick off press release, their intentions were made clear: “The language in our current law favoring the fossil fuel industry makes it inevitable that Michigan contributes mercilessly to global climate change and serious pollution of the Great Lakes – 20% of the world's fresh water. It is urgent that we move to alternative forms of energy to protect future generations.”  

The proposal in Michigan is one of many attempts by environmental groups across the country to ban hydraulic fracturing. With the war against coal well underway in Washington, DC, the next target of environmental extremists is affordable natural gas. Since natural gas burns relatively clean and is viewed by many to be environmentally friendly, environmental groups have decided to focus on the extraction process to try to scare people away from natural gas. Several movies and documentaries have been made in an attempt to make people think that hydraulic fracturing is causing extensive water contamination across the country, but there is no scientific evidence to support these assertions. The Environmental Protection Agency and many state health agencies have looked into several of these claims and found them to be baseless.  

In Michigan, hydraulic fracturing has been used for over 50 years without a single negative impact on human health or the environment. With over 12,000 wells drilled using this technique, it has clearly been proven safe. Horizontal drilling is a relatively new technique that allows for hydraulic fracturing that has a much smaller impact on the environment than the old technique, which required many more wells to be drilled to access the natural gas and oil.  Horizontal drilling is just as safe and doesn’t change how hydraulic fracturing is done.

Michigan has long been the model for state regulations for hydraulic fracturing.  We consistently update our regulations to keep pace with technological advances. The State of Michigan’s geologist, Hal Fitch, has said on numerous occasions that as long as Michigan regulations are followed we should have no concerns about the use of hydraulic fracturing.

Our state is uniquely positioned to benefit from continued responsible exploration for natural gas since we have a substantial amount of shale gas waiting to be recovered and the ability to store a larger amount than other states. We also have the potential to create many new jobs and lower our energy costs.                  

The Michigan Chamber’s Energy and Environment committee voted unanimously to recommend this policy proposal for approval by the Board of Directors.