At a press conference last week, Marcia Hovey-Wright, Michigan state representative for Muskegon, announced a package of eight bills that would give local communities more input and access to more information about fracking operations in Michigan.
The bills , introduced in the House by several Democrat representatives on July 18, aim to target some of the less controversial issues surrounding fracking processes in Michigan. Some of the bills in the package would:
- Require the disclosure of the chemicals used in the fracking process and report the water used when it exceeds more than 100,000 gallons (For comparison, the first well on the Excelsior County site pictured above used over 21 million gallons of water). Currently, about 9,300 different chemicals are used in fracking operations, according to the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality.
- Give municipalities and individuals the opportunity to request a public hearing before a fracking permit is issued, letting people have a say in the process.
- Allow local units of government to control fracking operations in their communities.
- Create a public-private advisory committee to study the effects of fracking and make recommendations.
- Hold fracking companies liable for contamination of groundwater if fracking fluid is found in nearby groundwater.
- Increase required setback distances of fracking operations from residential areas and apply it to schools, hospitals, daycare centers and public parks.
Unlike a similar set of bills last year, which included a moratorium on the practice to allow for further study, these bills have fairly unified support among the professional environmental community. Hovey-Wright has hopes that the legislation will find support from both Republican and Democrat legislators, as well.
It’s none too soon. Fracking is happening as close as Ravenna, and could eventually find its way into the tri-cities community. The proposed bills represent a commonsense and pragmatic approach that should provide a means for the oil and gas industry, its regulators, and the citizens of communities near drilling sites to understand and prevent potential problems before they occur, including those that are unique to Michigan geology.
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