Initiatives targeting oil and gas development are becoming more and more common around the country, and Michigan is the latest state to play host to the hydraulic fracturing debate.
For the third election season in Michigan, opposition to the development technique will attempt to get lawmakers and the public to adopt an outright fracing ban. The previous two attempts have been unsuccessful, with the latest effort set to begin in a few weeks.
The Committee to Ban Fracking in Michigan’s last attempt in 2013 fell about 180,000 signatures short of the 250,000 needed to land a fracing ban on the election ballot. The leader of the Committee, LuAnn Kozma, has been outspoken and optimistic on a more successful campaign in 2016, saying the use of fracing causes “serious harm.”
Nathan Conway disagrees. Conway serves as Chief Executive Officer of Fortis Energy Services, a private oilservice provider based in Bloomfield Hills, Michigan, with rigs, equipment and crews operating in Michigan, the Marcellus, Utica and the Bakken.
“We’re very concerned about protecting our water in Michigan,” Conway told Oil & Gas 360®.
An assertion made by the anti-fracturing group equated drillers to polluters. “Many operators across the country who are drilling today are recycling their frac water—using it over and over again,” Conway explained. “They’re recycling and reusing produced water created during the hydraulic fracturing process thus reducing the need for as much “new” fresh water to complete additional wells. Regulation requiring proper treatment, hauling and disposing of the frac water into special wells is in place, so saying that it’s polluting is certainly a misrepresented statement.”
Conway also mentioned the Michigan Chamber of Commerce has partnered with the Michigan Oil & Gas Association to combat a potential frac ban. The Chamber of Commerce tried to stall the recent petition drive by claiming the petition language does not meet the requirements to enact a law. “If I were circulating petitions, I would want some indication of whether they meet constitutional standards,” said Gary Gordon, an attorney for the Michigan Chamber of Commerce, to a local media outlet. “All the board said was these have the right type size and the correct disclaimers and [they] didn’t look at any of the substantive issues at all.”
Conway denied the notion that the practice is just getting started in Michigan, explaining that the practice has been used for decades. “Hydraulic fracturing has been used for over 50 years,” said Conway. Throughout the state they’ve been drilling for a long time. There are more than 10,000 wells drilled in Michigan using hydraulic fracturing and has clearly been proven safe to human health and the environment.”
The fracing dispute is making some potential producers hesitant to start up operations. Marathon (ticker: MPC) was planning on drilling six wells in the northern part of the state but has deferred operations until 2016. Michigan has not had a running rig since May 2013, according to the rig count report from Baker Hughes.
Michigan Chamber of Commerce President Richard Studley issued a statement saying voters should decline to sign the petitions, calling the measure “an unprecedented attack on private property rights that would limit energy production, result in lost jobs, increase the cost of home heating and substantially reduce state funding for parks and recreation.”
Other officials pointed to legal issues that could open the state to litigation, including denial of property rights to mineral owners.
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