The Michigan Chamber of Commerce on Monday launched a campaign to educate voters about the state's oil and natural gas business in an attempt to prevent any municipal or legislative bans on unconventional drilling.

The chamber's board of directors recently voted unanimously to support responsible energy exploration in Michigan and to oppose any attempt to ban the use of hydraulic fracturing (fracking), "including a false and misleading petition drive" by environmental activists," said CEO Rich Studley.

"The dangerous petition drive to ban hydraulic fracturing is based on fear and emotion, not facts or sound science," he said. "Worse yet, it is a direct attack on a key industry that provides good jobs and energy independence for our state."

Earlier this year fracking opponents in the state began a initiative petition drive to collect signatures for a place on the 2014 state ballot about whether to allow fracking to be used by Michigan operators (see Shale DailyApril 19). The Committee to Ban Fracking in Michigan proposes to amend the state's Natural Resources and Environmental Protection Act.

The Chamber's campaign includes billboards posted across Michigan and a website to help educate voters about the benefits of energy growth.

"In-state production of oil and gas benefits Michigan communities and families in many ways," said Studley. "It enables energy independence, supports thousands of Michigan jobs and generates millions of dollars in annual revenue for public services at the state and local level, in addition to royalties for Michigan's Natural Resources Trust Fund."

Unconventional drilling techniques, including fracking, have been used more than 50 years "without a negative impact on human health or the environment," said the Chamber's Jason Geer, who directs Energy & Environmental. "With over 12,000 wells drilled using this technique, hydraulic fracturing has clearly been proven safe.

"Our state is uniquely positioned to benefit from continued responsible exploration for natural gas since we have a substantial amount of shale gas waiting to be recovered and the ability to store a larger amount than other states."

General Counsel Jim Holcomb, who also directs the chamber's Business Advocacy, said Michigan's current regulations for exploration in Michigan are "tough but fair, and that's the way it should be."

He noted that last November Michigan voters "overwhelmingly rejected an attempt by out-of-state interests with a national agenda to set energy policy by petition drive. We're confident that when presented with the facts about energy exploration in Michigan, voters will once again reject a dangerous ballot proposal."

Most Michigan homes (80%) are heated with natural gas, Studley noted. "Safe natural gas produced right here in Michigan means more jobs and lower energy bills for homeowners. Now is not the time to sign away Michigan's energy future."

 Encana Corp. and Chesapeake Energy Corp. have been a long-standing leaseholders in Michigan, with positions in the Collingwood, Antrim and Utica shales. The two producers have been under the microscope for allegedly colluding on prices in a Michigan Department of Natural Resources sale in 2010 (see Shale DailyFeb. 28;June 26, 2012).