Michigan and fracking

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{{#badges: FrackSwarm|Navbar-fracking}} As of September 2012, the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) listed 40 permits and 15 applications for high volume hydraulic fracturing operations in the state. The main operating companies are Devon Energy and EnCana Oil and Gas.[1]


Antrim Shale, Michigan

The Antrim Shale of Upper Devonian age contains oil and gas along a belt across the northern part of the Michigan Basin.[2] Although the Antrim Shale has produced gas since the 1940s, the play was not active until the late 1980s. Unlike other shale gas plays such as the Barnett Shale, the natural gas from the Antrim appears to be biogenic gas generated by the action of bacteria on the organic-rich rock.[3]

In 2007, the Antrim gas field produced 136 cubic feet of gas, making it the 13th largest source of natural gas in the United States.

The Collingwood and Utica formations extend across much of the northern Lower Peninsula of the state, at depths ranging from 10,000 to 12,000 feet.[3]

Fracking operations

Click here for DEQ’s list of all horizontal frack well permits and applications drilled in Michigan, issued permits, and applications for new wells.

By April 2012, oil companies signed 167 leases with people in Michigan's Barry County, compared to 81 signed in 2011. The leases give the oil companies permission to frack the land looking for oil. In Barry County, leases typically range from $10 to $80 per acre per month.[4]

Encana Oil & Gas intends to frack 13 new wells in Kalkaska County, Michigan in search of natural gas. The operation will require more than 300 million gallons of groundwater for production. Critics contend that Michigan Department of Environmental Quality officials do not adequately regulate drilling wells, and that Encana’s wells fail a water withdrawal assessment measurement, designed to protect the state’s water resources.[5]

On Sep 3, 2013, Texas-based GeoSouthern Energy received state approval to inject 3 million gallons of fracking fluid for oil and gas into a 1-mile geological formation in Conway Township.[6]

There are also high-volume fracturing projects in Ionia County, Hillsdale County, and Sanilac County. The majority of high-volme fracturing permits are in central and northern Michigan.[6]

Waste Disposal

In 2014 U.S. Ecology came under fire for its expansion plans and handling of hydraulic fracturing's radioactive sludge from out of state at its Wayne Disposal, Inc facility in Belleville, MI. Wayne Disposal is one of only 17 sites in the U.S. qualified to handle such wastes, also called technologically enhanced naturally occurring radioactive material (TENORM).

U.S. Ecology agreed to halt a shipment of hydraulic fracturing waste from Pennsylvania until a panel appointed by Michigan Governor Rick Snyder had reviewed the waste transaction. After four months of review, the panel decided in February 2015 that U.S. Ecology could accept the shipment.

In fall 2015 controversy ensued over the expansion of operations at a hazardous waste plant, called U.S. Ecology, in Detroit near Hamtramck, MI has raised concerns among neighbors that Detroit is being used as a dumping ground for out of state hydraulic fracturing operations.[7]

Lobbying and donations

The 2011 Common Cause report, "Deep drilling, deep pockets, in Washington and Michigan," found that "from 2001 through June 2011, the fracking industry gave $20.5 million to current members of Congress and spent $726 million on lobbying." For Michigan, Rep. John Dingell was the top recipient with $203,453, followed by Rep. Dave Camp with $154,627, and Rep. Fred Upton with $153,917. Rep. Upton chairs the House Energy and Commerce Committee, where the FRAC Act, which would require drillers to disclose the chemicals used in fracking, has been stalled.

The report also tracked $2.2 million in campaign contributions to Michigan’s state elected officials, and $2.8 million spent on lobbying in Michigan. State Treasurer and former House Speaker Andy Dillon was the leading recipient with $128,500, followed by former Gov. Jennifer Granholm with $98,800, former Attorney General Mike Cox with $76,250, and Gov. Rick Snyder with $61,900.[8]

Price fixing allegations

In June 2012 Reuters reported that, under the direction of CEO Aubrey McClendon, Chesapeake Energy plotted with top executives of competitor EnCana to suppress land prices in the Collingwood Shale formation in Northern Michigan. In emails between Chesapeake and Encana Corp, the rivals discussed dividing up Michigan counties and private landowners to avoid bidding against each other in a 2010 public land auction and in at least nine prospective private deals. Price-fixing between competitors is illegal under the Sherman Antitrust Act. In Michigan alone, the two companies combined now hold more than 975,000 acres of land - an area about the size of Rhode Island.[9]

Citizen activism

In February 15, 2013 it was reported that Michigan's Board of State Canvassers approved a ballot initiative petition on fracking by Committee to Ban Fracking in Michigan, a ballot question committee. A second approval was given on April 17, 2013 for a revised ballot wording. The Committee's ballot initiative is a "legislative proposal," a process spelled out in the Michigan state constitution, that allows citizens to write their own law, collect signatures from Michigan voters and put the proposal before voters at the next statewide election in November 2014.

Reuters reported that "The Committee to Ban Fracking in Michigan is proposing a voter initiative to amend state law and ban fracking, a form of natural gas extraction."

The ballot initiative language is available on the Michigan Secretary of State's website.[10] Committee to Ban Fracking in Michigan is a citizen-led ballot initiative.[11] The proposal would prohibit horizontal hydraulic fracturing and horizontal hydraulic fracturing wastes, and eliminate the state's policy of fostering the natural gas industry along the most favorable conditions to maximize production of natural gas and oil.

Legislative issues and regulations

The Michigan DEQ defines high-volume hydraulic fracturing as fracturing that injects 100,000 gallons or more of fluid into the ground. As of 2011, the DEQ has put stricter provisions on high-volume projects, including some disclosure of the chemicals used and injection-pressure monitoring, according to the DEQ. (Smaller-volume hydraulic fracturing, considered projects using less than 100,000 gallons of fluid, dates back to the 1960s in Michigan.)[6]

Democrats in the state House have introduced bills to regulate fracking, while some concerned citizens have collected signatures for a ballot initiative to ban it.[12]

In September 2013 the University of Michigan released a study on fracking in the state "to provide information to guide legislators and other policymakers." The study included seven technical reports on topics ranging from production technology to Michigan’s geological features and environmental and public health issues. The study found that the state had plenty of water for fracking but also so many interconnected waterways it would make it difficult to contain chemical spills and leaks. The report concluded that low prices for gas and high costs of retrieving it from deep rock offer little incentive for major development in the state in the near future. A 2014 report will offer policy options.[12]

Two of the steering members on the Univ of Michigan study personally contributed to the Michigan Chamber of Commerce’s ballot question committee, which ran a campaign against the ballot initiative for a fracking moratorium with a campaign of their own called “Protect Michigan’s Energy Future.”[13]

Citizen groups

Industry groups




  1. "DEQ Well completing active permits and applications," DEQ list, accessed September 2013.
  2. Michigan DEQ map: Antrim, PDF file, downloaded 12 February 2009.
  3. John Flesher, "Study: New gas development boom unlikely in Michigan," AP, Sep. 5, 2013.
  4. Dave Spencer, "Oil Companies Flocking to Frack in Barry County: Some are calling it a win-win others raise health concerns over fracking," Fox, April 30, 2012.
  5. "More fracking wells planned" Glenn Puit, Record-Eagle, March 24, 2013.
  6. 6.0 6.1 6.2 Christopher Behnan, "'Fracking' debate erupts: Landowners and environmentalists worry about effects," Livingston Daily.com, Sep 12, 2013.
  7. Jim Lynch, "Hazardous waste facility’s expansion prompts worries," The Detroit News, September 24, 2015.
  8. James Browning & Alex Kaplan, "Deep drilling, deep pockets, in Washington and Michigan," Common Cause, 2011.
  9. Brian Grow, Joshua Schneyer, and Janet Roberts, "Special Report: Chesapeake and rival EnCana plotted to suppress land prices," Reuters, June 25, 2012.
  10. Michigan Secretary of State, "[1]."
  11. Committee to Ban Fracking in Michigan, [2]."
  12. 12.0 12.1 John Flesher, "Study: New gas development boom unlikely in Michigan," AP, Sep. 5, 2013.
  13. "UM Graham Researchers In Financial Conflict Re Fracking," Ban Michigan Fracking, September 12, 2013.

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