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Let It Flow Blog
At the August 12th meeting of the Board of Directors of Two Rivers Coalition, our organization officially endorsed the petition currently circulating to ban fracking in Michigan. As President of TRC, I want to take this opportunity to explain why your local water quality organization has taken this action. For those of you who don’t want to read to the end of this article, get ready for the spoiler: It’s all about water quality.
Anyone who has followed the national debate about fracking the last few years knows there is a lot of information (and misinformation) out there. There are lots of potential reasons to be concerned about fracking: it’s an unproven technology in its current high volume iteration, large amounts of ground water are required, “secret” chemicals (some of which are carcinogenic) are added to fracking fluid and pumped deep into the ground, regulation has lagged behind the technology, landowners have reported contamination of their wells, the necessary infrastructure negatively impacts natural areas, and surprisingly large amounts of greenhouse gases (such as methane) are released into the atmosphere by the fracking process. This list is by no means exhaustive and reasonable minds might be able to respectfully disagree on any particular point. But notice how many of the concerns with fracking deal with water. And it occurred to us on the TRC Board that if most of the potential problems with fracking involved water, then this was an appropriate subject for a local water quality group to be concerned about.
Now we can’t tell you that if fracking is allowed to continue in Michigan, your drinking water will catch on fire. But there is no doubt that this has happened to some landowners near fracking sites and seems to involve the migration of naturally occurring methane into well water, somehow triggered by the underground fracturing of the rock strata. We also can’t tell you that the “secret” carcinogenic chemicals in the fracking fluid will leak into your water supply. But exactly why was it necessary to exempt the fracking industry from the Clean Water Act standards and requirements that everyone else in America has to follow? And we can’t tell you that the huge volumes of water used by fracking will necessarily lead to a water shortage. But do you have a lot of confidence in the MDEQ to adequately monitor and regulate large volume water extractions? And where is this extraordinarily contaminated wastewater going to go? Take a look at photos of wastewater lagoons in the tar sands oil fields of Alberta, Canada if you want a hint of what the future might look like.
Maybe it all comes down to risk; what are you willing to gamble? A person may think nothing of going down to the casino after payday and losing $100 playing Blackjack. But that same person might not be willing to put the mortgage payment in the kitty. And isn’t that what the fracking industry is asking us to do? “Trust us, we drink water too” they say and then get back into their drilling trucks and tankers leaking toxic waste water and head back to Texas, Oklahoma, and other places far away. Let’s face it: Nobody else in the world will protect Michigan’s groundwater from contamination besides the people who actually live here. Try to imagine a scenario where thousands of gallons of toxic fracking fluid finds a crack in the rock layer and migrates a mere 50 feet down or up into a freshwater aquifer. We don’t even have the technology to clean up a contaminated aquifer; the most likely “solution” would be to simply cap all local wells and bring in drinking water by tanker for the local population. Are a couple years of slightly cheaper gasoline really worth the risk to our water? And do you want to tell your grandkids someday, “There was a beautiful spring fed trout stream here when I was your age but we traded all that for cheaper gas?”
It is because of the potential risk to our freshwater resources here in Michigan that Two Rivers Coalition has decided to support the effort to ban fracking in Michigan. If you agree that playing Russian roulette with our water is unacceptable, you have a few more days to sign the petition currently being circulated. November 11 is the last day to sign the petition and you can get more information at http://www.