News Feature | October 31, 2013

Michigan Proposes Fracking Rules To Protect Water

Sara Jerome

By Sara Jerome,

Concerns about the potential environmental effects of fracking have spurred new regulations in Michigan. 

The Michigan Department of Environmental Quality proposed new regulations this month that would slap reporting and monitoring requirements on drilling companies, affecting how oil and gas companies approach water issues. 

For instance, "fracking operations will be required to install a well to monitor groundwater levels if there is a water supply well within 1,320 feet of the fracking operation," Crain's Detroit Business reported.

Another rule would officially require that "permit applicants use the state’s water withdrawal assessment tool to prevent any adverse impacts to rivers or streams," according to MLive Media Group.

The proposal includes a push for greater transparency. One "would require operators to disclose information on chemical additives used in fracking fluid on a web-based registry," MLive said. 

John Griffin, executive director of Associated Petroleum Industries of Michigan, said some of the proposals are just “common sense."

“I’ve been around the state talking to groups about hydraulic fracturing,” he said in the MLive piece. “There’s a lot of nonsense and a lot of fear, but on the issue of water and chemical disclosure, I don’t think we’ve done a good enough job explaining ourselves, so I think this will help.”

Crain's Detroit Business pointed out the upside for industry: "Those interested in fracking, should remember that legislation has been introduced in the State legislature that would be much more restrictive on fracking operations than the proposed rules." The rules are up for public comment.

Last month, University of Michigan researchers released a major study on how fracking could impact their home state. Fracking is not as common in Michigan as it is in other states, but experts anticipate that the practice will become more widespread. 

Effects on Michigan's environment could be significant, the study said. That includes "impacts on aquatic and terrestrial organisms, loss of stream riparian zones, and reduction of surface waters available to plants and animals due to the lowering of groundwater levels." 

Wyoming is also working on fracking rules. Read more in Water Online.