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Fracking Debate Percolates in Michigan on Heel of New York Ban

Jan 6 | 2015  by

On behalf of Fausone Bohn, LLP on Tuesday, January 6, 2015.

Paul Bohn, Esq.

On the heels of the State of New York’s banning of hydraulic fracturing, debate on the practice is now percolating in Michigan. New York, which has had a moratorium on the practice since 2008, now joins Vermont as the only states to completely ban hydraulic fracturing, commonly known as “fracking.”

The Michigan Department of Environmental Quality (MDEQ) is set to draft rules in April to regulate the industry. These new rules will reportedly include provisions to limit a local government’s ability to pass zoning ordinances to prevent fracking.

The move by New York to ban fracking is sure to embolden anti-fracking activists, while at the same time signal the pro-fracking lobby to dig in their heels in other states – including Michigan. New York Governor Andrew Cuomo said the issue was “probably the most emotionally charged issue I have experienced…”

The oil and gas industry in New York had their hopes shot down by the decision, as New York sits atop one of the largest natural gas deposits in the United States. Some energy companies have leased land in those areas and have been waiting for years to tap into those thousands of acres of land. And the wait will go on.

Michigan, too, has a sizeable natural gas supply. In-state natural gas represents about 20% of the total gas consumed in Michigan. And MDEQ notes in a one page briefing document on their website that fracking has been in regular use in Michigan since 1952, with no adverse effects to the state’s environment from the process. 

However, a group in Michigan, known as The Committee to Ban Fracking in Michigan, begs to differ. They hailed the decision out of New York. Also, with the abysmal turnout in this past election, the bar for getting a ballot proposal put on the 2016 ticket is far lower. For 2016, only 252,522 signatures are required to send a question to the Michigan voters, and the anti-fracking group is eyeing to do just that.

The group alleges that the industry has indeed been harmful to the Michigan environment, including wasting fresh water resources, putting aquifers in danger, and the introduction of harmful fracking wastes and radioactive materials. The group’s campaign, LetsBanFracking.org, hopes that the New York decision emboldens potential donors and volunteers.

So stay tuned for 2015 – fracking has been on the top of many an insider’s list of hot-button issues to watch. And if New York is any indication, it seems that will come to fruition.

Paul Bohn, partner at Fausone Bohn, LLP, has established a strong reputation in Michigan as a leading practitioner in the areas of environmental law, real estate, municipal regulations and construction law.