Wednesday, organizers for the Committee to Ban Fracking in Michigan gathered outside the Secretary of State's (SOS) office, not to show they had the minimum 252,523 signatures they needed to get their initiative at least in front of the Legislature, but to announce they collected more than 150,000 signatures in six months.
Ballot committees have to collect the minimum number of signatures in a six-month window before June 1, 2016. So going forward, the group would begin to lose the signatures it gathered when it began back in May (See "Canvassers OK Anti-Fracking Citizens Initiative," 4/14/15).
Asked how the petition is expected to get on the ballot if it loses signatures with each passing day, the group's leader, LuAnne KOZMA, said, "We'll see about that . . . all options are on the table."
Kozma even mentioned that an attempt in 2018 is possible, but said the goal was to still get on the 2016 ballot.
"We're hoping," Kozma said, when asked if a 2016 ballot appearance was still the objective.
The group has tried three times to garner the necessary signatures to get a fracking ban proposal before voters. The group got its petition approved to form in an attempt to get on the 2012, 2014 and 2016 ballots.
The group has previously fallen short on a constitutional amendment, then later on an initiated legislation petition.
This time around, the group began collecting signatures again in May after the Board of State Canvassers approved its initiative petition in April.
The group hasn't raised the same amount of money other groups pushing ballot proposals have, which is critical to paying for signature gatherers.
For instance, in its most recent campaign finance filing in October, the group reported raising $16,472 and spending just $5,770, with $47,497 left on hand at the time.
Kozma said the group has paid for some signature collecting, but she said it's only amounted to about 10,000 of the collected signatures.
The group also garnered the backing of the Sierra Club, but Kozma said the Sierra Club lent volunteers and not financial backing. The Michigan Nurses Association also endorsed the group's efforts too, Kozma said.
The group said it commissioned a poll recently that shows people oppose fracking being allowed in Michigan -- about 49 percent, according to a Public Policy Polling survey, done Nov. 6-8 of 624 Michigan voters. A margin of error on the poll was not provided.
The fracking ban group gathered outside the SOS Lansing office Wednesday to show off its boxes of signatures and handful of volunteers, although Kozma said at least 500 people pitched in to gather them.
Also appearing at the press conference were several officials from the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ), as well as John GRIFFIN, executive director of the Associated Petroleum Industries of Michigan.
The Michigan Oil and Gas Association (MOGA) called the fracking ban group's signature shortage "a relief."
"As a result of our members and partners doing a better job of working with communities, the public has a growing awareness of the facts: clean hydraulic fracturing can and is being done in our state with real results that the public understands," the statement from MOGA read. "It means less reliance on foreign oil, some of the lowest prices at the pump that we've seen in decades, low home heating costs, thriving manufacturing and a path forward for cleaner and carbon-low electricity generation from natural gas."