A Watershed Moment: Fracking

On today’s episode we hear from Nicholas Occhipinti, Policy and Community Activism Director at the West Michigan Enviornmental Action Council, who discusses the concerns of high-volume hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, in West Michigan.

Fracking has been going on for years, but the new high-volume horizontal fracturing that has been making an appearance recently, which brings more concerns. This type of fracking injects a proprietary mix of chemicals, including sand and water, into the earth to release oils and natural gases. The process uses over 100,000 gallons of water and more chemicals, and digs deeper and horizontally into the earth, which can have serious effects on the environment.

This industry does not just pose a threat to Western states, such as Wyoming or Montana, but to any other state. WMEAC is kickstarting a new campaign to bring awareness to the issue of hydraulic fracturing in the West Michigan area, with the goal of halting operations until more studies have been completed and more protection is in place. Fracking effects multiple facets of the community and environment, and the campaign focuses on the three major components: air, land, and water.

The poor air quality seen in the rural fracking towns of Wyoming is an indicator of the large amount of pollution fracking produces. The problem with proprietary chemicals is that we don’e know what exactly is in them and when used in high volumes, can pose threats to the land. Although companies are required to disclose the chemicals to the DEQ and MSDS, they are not required to list the specifics of the chemicals involved or their potential dangers. One high-volume hydraulic fracturing site up north uses 21 million gallons of water, which can have a direct impact on local rivers and streams.

Right now there are a couple bills that could help provide protection against the fracturing industry, such as baseline testing, which would allow a comparison of land pollution before and after fracking. There is also a bill which would provide more disclosure on chemicals.

The goal of the campaign is to get people knowledgeable on the issue and of the possible effects it could have on the environment. Many political figures are in support of hydraulic fracturing because of the business component and economic value it would bring.

“In that political context we want to make sure that we do everything we can to have the right protections in place before it comes anymore to West Michigan, to Kent County,” says Occhipinti.

To listen to this episode, click here. The full interview can be hear here.

“A Watershed Moment” is a weekly radio program focused on environmental news and happenings in West Michigan, plus solutions for living a greener life.  Broadcast on WYCE-FM 88.1 on Tuesdays at 8:30am and 5:30pm, this program is produced by Grand Rapids Community Media Center and West Michigan Environmental Action Council.

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