Friday, June 22, 2012

Report Reviews Legal Controls For Fracking In MI & OH

Jun 21: A new legal analysis by the National Wildlife Federation (NWF) finds that laws in Michigan and Ohio need to be improved to protect the region's streams, rivers, lakes, and wildlife from the risks of hydraulic fracturing, or "fracking." NWF said, "Energy companies use this controversial technique to extract natural gas from fine-grained shale, injecting a mix of water, chemicals, and sand into a well at high pressures to crack open the rock. The natural gas then flows out into the well and is captured aboveground. Fracking has raised significant environmental concerns, including the potential for impacts on water quality and water-dependent natural resources."

    Sara Gosman, water resources attorney for NWF's Great Lakes office and lecturer at the University of Michigan Law School said, "Our analysis shows that Michigan and Ohio are doing some things right, but the states remain vulnerable to risks associated with fracking. We urge Michigan and Ohio to strengthen their laws to protect public health, wildlife and water resources now and for generations to come."

    NWF reports that while fracking of shallow wells has occurred in Michigan for over 30 years, energy companies are just beginning to use fracking within the Great Lakes basin to extract natural gas from deep shale formations. These deep shale wells can extend more than a mile below the surface and up to two miles horizontally. Fracking of deep wells requires more water, more chemicals, and greater pressure on the well itself than fracking of shallow wells. Thus, deep wells pose more risks for water resources in the basin.

     The report -- Hydraulic Fracturing in the Great Lakes Basin: The State of Play in Michigan and Ohio -- reviews the legal framework governing the entire life cycle of fracking in both states. The report begins by examining three potential ways in which the water resources in the Great Lakes basin could be harmed by fracking: depletion of freshwater resources due to the large volumes of water needed to inject into deep wells; contamination from well production activities, including surface spills and underground leaks; and contamination from disposal of the well wastewater. For each of these three areas, the report then examines the laws that are intended to address the risks in Michigan and Ohio. The report, written by Gosman and University of Michigan Law School students, concludes that the laws address some of the risks of fracking, but that more needs to be done to fully protect the Great Lakes basin.
    Access a release from NWF (click here). Access the complete 39-page report which includes references and links to referenced information (click here).
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