Walking out of the Oakland County Court recently means running into a gentle, elderly African-American woman who is collecting signatures for a petition to ban fracking from Michigan. I’ve been walking the line on the issue, but lately I’ve begun to feel a need to make a stand. I realized that I was standing by for a definitive answer on the safety and cost-effectiveness of fracking. After years of virtually unregulated fracking in Michigan, and successful lobbying efforts by the energy industry to block every study of the effects of fracking, I realized that I have to make a stand. In civil trials the burden of proof is by a preponderance of the evidence, not beyond a reasonable doubt. In the case of fracking the preponderance of evidence supports at least a moratorium on fracking in Michigan.
First, the process of starting up a fracking operation is unregulated and results in the following damaging effects: every well requires about 4,000 trips by large trucks carrying water, 24 hours a day for 30 or more days. It wrecks roads, landscapes and the property values of adjoining areas. There have been spills and leaks of wells in other States, resulting in ruined aquifers (ruined that is by cancer-causing chemicals used during drilling) and private property values decimated by pipelines, and illnesses caused by massive leaks of gases released during drilling. In a State which saw the largest oil spill from and Enbridge pipeline ruin the Kalamazoo river basin, the prospect of even larger ecosystems spoiled for generations is real and frightening. And by the way, nearly all of the millions of gallons of water used during the fracking process are lost for any future use.
Second, the glut of natural gas has not resulted in any “energy security” or “national security”. There has been no net reduction of energy costs to most people in Michigan. On a geopolitical scale, the oil companies have made it clear through export applications that they intend to export natural gas to Europe and Asia where they can get 2x-3x the profit.
Natural gas may be a cleaner fuel when burned, but the massive releases of methane into the atmosphere released from the drilling process is as damaging as other fossil fuels, except coal. In fact, the only argument for fracking is that it is better than coal and coal mining, which is true. If coal mining and burning were the only alternative then… maybe.
So until the oil industry allows for scientific study of the effects of fracking and regulation of the process of fracking, there should be a ban. I felt good signing the petition.