Opponents of hydraulic fracturing (fracking) in Michigan plan to begin collecting signatures for a petition that could ask voters in 2014 whether to allow the drilling stimulation practice to be used in the state.
The Board of State Canvassers approved an amended initiative petition by the Committee to Ban Fracking in Michigan (CBFM) on Wednesday. The environmental group, based in Charlevoix, MI, proposes to amend the state's Natural Resources and Environmental Protection Act.
CBFM campaign director LuAnna Kozma told NGI's Shale Daily that the group plans to collect more than the 258,088 valid signatures required for the question to appear on the ballot in November 2014. However, John Griffin, spokesman for the Michigan Oil and Gas Association (MOGA), told NGI's Shale Daily that CBFM had failed in a previous fracking ban effort to amend the state constitution after receiving only about 22,000 signatures. They needed 322,000.
"If they get some significant outside funding it may be a different story, but pretty much for any ballot drive they are paying for their circulators," Griffin told NGI's Shale Daily Wednesday. "Everything we see so far is that they are all volunteers. But we're monitoring the situation and doing a lot of media, writing letters, having letters placed, doing op-eds." Griffin said MOGA is part of a coalition with the American Petroleum Institute and America's Natural Gas Alliance, which is aligned to oppose the ballot initiative.
According to the state Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ), operators have performed drilling using fracking techniques in Michigan since the late 1940s on about 12,000 wells.
"State regulators have been studying hydraulic fracturing in action for five decades," the DEQ Office of Oil, Gas and Minerals states on its website. "As the lead regulatory agency in Michigan, the DEQ does not support halting an activity that has been regularly used without serious incident. If this process posed a threat to the public or the environment, the DEQ would further regulate it or outlaw it. To the contrary, Michigan's regulatory structure has been held up as a national model for effective, protective regulation."
The DEQ lists 12 permitted horizontal wells on its website. Of these, there are five in Kalaska County, two in Gladwin County, two in Hillsdale County, and one each in Cheboygan, Montmorency and Sanilac counties. The Antrim, Collingwood and Utica shales are some of the formations being targeted by producers in the state.