In 2010, Environmental advocates and concerned citizens gaped at the documentary Gasland which shows people lighting tap water on fire as a result of methane leaks due to “fracking”, a controversial natural gas extraction method linked to ground water contamination. The process involves breaking into shale rock below ground water levels to acess methane. Once the rock is broken, gas released can potentially seep upward into water supplies if not extracted correctly.
A Michigan Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) spokesperson has decried the film, stating that the images in Gasland are not accurate.
Today, the debate over fracking and its dangers and benefits continues in Michigan as Governor Rick Snyder announced a plan Wednesday to increase the state's production of natural gas.
On Wednesday, Snyder said the best way to tap into Michigan’s plentiful natural gas deposits is to research safe ways to expand the use of fracking. He said an increase of the drilling process will result in lower gas bills for Michigan residents:
"We've been doing fracking for over a decade with some of the toughest regulations in the country and it's worked well," he said. "Fracking is something that is very serious and it needs to be done the right way.”
According to a report in The Detroit News, Michigan plans to team up with the University of Michigan’s Graham Sustainability Institute on a two-year, $600,000 study of best practices for the use of fracking. The increase in fracking may not be halted by the DEQ.
In October Michigan DEQ communications director Brad Wurfel declared hydraulic fracturing, or “fracking” a safe method under the right controls and decried the controversial documentary that smeared the practice.
Wurfel told The Rockford Quire:
“I’ve seen Gasland and it’s a fun movie, but it isn’t real. In Michigan in 60 years and 12,000 wells there has never been a single incident associated with fracking. People get really excited about this. We are the Department of Environmental Quality, we protect the land, air and water. If something was going to damage those resources we would shut it down or outlaw it.”
But there are those who counter Wurfel’s statement, citing a scientific study that linked flammable drinking water to fracking.
On a federal level, the Obama Administration tightened fracking regulations this May, implementing laws requiring the disclosure of chemicals used in the process when done on federal and American Indian lands.
Still, the issue is hotly contested at a state and national level. Those who rely on ground water to drink worry about the affects of fracking. But under the right controls, many argue that it’s a step toward Michigan becoming more energy independent.
The City of Detroit is operating like a rollercoaster. Every week is a new drama. Two weeks ago it was the state threateneing to withold revenue sharing funds if a lawsuit challenging the consent agreement wasn't dropped. Last week, a judge tossed the contoversial lawsuit and the city was able to move forward appointing the last memebers of the financial advisroy board put in place under the consent agreement. It seemed like the maybe the rollercoaster was slowing down a bit.
Then, last Friday, Bing stormed out of a meeting with city council and blasted them for holding back the city by not agreeming to remove the lawyer who brought the lawsut against the consent agreement. City Council President Charles Pugh blasted back saying the mayor needed to show better leadership. This week, Bing wants to hire is own lawyer and not use the city's top lawyer, Krystal Crittendon because of the negative effects the lawsuit she brought had on the city.
It seems that this week all niceties are out the window and now the familiar rift between the Detroit Mayor’s Office and the City Council is clearer than ever.
But was Detroit Mayor Dave Bing himself who said the city needed to move forward without distractions. So why is he causing more?
There seems to be reason beyond sinking bond ratings that Bing wants Crittendon out so bad. Is he afraid she will appeal the court’s decision to throw out her case that called the consent agreement void? Is the state privately threatening him with more cuts unless he removes the lawyer who could stand in the way? There has to be an better explaination for this one.
It doesn’t take a genius to figure that out: He’d already asked the Council remove Crittendon two week before when the state threatened to hold back $80 million in funding if she didn’t drop the lawsuit and they flatly refused. In addition, less than the 2/3-majority vote needed to remove Crittendon voted in support of the consent agreement in the first place.
This can be avoided. Crittendon hasn’t said she will appeal the decision to toss the lawsuit she brought, so, for now, this dramatic showdown should be over.
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