Map illustrating the use of hydraulic fracking in the United States.

Dark skies over a fracking facility

Anti-fracking sign, “no drill, no spill”

The heavy and destructive machinery necessary to facilitate fracking

What Is Fracking?

Hydraulic fracturing, also known as “fracking,” is the process of injecting a mixture of water, chemicals, and sand underground to create fractures, through which natural gas and oil can flow for collection. The technique of low-capacity, shallow hydraulic fracturing has been used for many years in Michigan, mainly to tap Antrim Shale wells in the northern Lower Peninsula that produce natural gas at depths of 500 to 2,000 feet. Michigan’s oil and gas laws were designed to protect water quality from this low-pressure process.

However new, higher-pressure fracking techniques have been developed to tap reserves deeper in the earth. These more industrial fracking techniques have caused significant damage to water quality and seismic problems in other states. Because of the additional chemicals, higher pressures, and greater surface activity at these wells, Michigan’s rules to protect water quality need to be updated.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • What is being done about fracking?

    House Democrats have introduced a package of bills to address the hazard posed by fracking. New fracking techniques have caused problems in Pennsylvania, Wyoming, Oklahoma and elsewhere. We want to make sure that Michigan avoids the problems experienced in these other states by developing state-of-the-art regulations for fracking operations. Our bills will help keep our water clean and ensure that new permits will only be issued once Michigan’s regulations have been updated to protect water quality.

  • What would these bills do?

    This legislation would create a moratorium on fracking until safeguards are in place to protect Michigan’s water. Our proposal would require drilling companies to disclose the chemicals they inject underground during the fracking process. Also, these bills require fracking operations to screen adverse impacts to water resources and gives local government tools to increase setbacks and zone appropriately for drilling operations in their jurisdiction.

  • Industry groups say fracking is safe. Are these bills necessary?

    We’re not willing to trust the companies who profit from fracking. The legislature and the State of Michigan needs to protect our valuable natural resources with state-of-the-art water quality rules.

  • Do you think these bills create burdensome regulations that will discourage fracking in Michigan? Will this lead to a negative economic impact?

    These are common-sense reforms to ensure that fracking is done safely. We respect the natural gas industry and the economic benefits it affords our state, but we also think about other industries. Agriculture is a huge driver of Michigan's economy, and it requires fertile land and safe water. Tourism is another, but visitors and residents won't fish from polluted streams or take their boats onto fouled lakes. These bills are a fair set of rules that everyone, industry and individual alike, should support.

  • Michigan has never experienced a fracking spill; is this type of regulation necessary?

    Yes. Michigan has had a fracking spill in Benzie County. There have been more than a thousand reported accidents in other states, and Michigan has too much to lose if this new type of fracking goes wrong. Many property owners, small-business owners and citizens were victimized when the Deepwater Horizon oil leak occurred or, locally, when Enbridge spilled more than 800,000 gallons of oil into the Kalamazoo River. We still don't know the lasting effects these accidents have had on our ecosystem, and many of these communities will feel the effects for years and decades to come.

Bill Summaries

  • Moratorium (Roberts)

    A moratorium on issuing any new permits for high-volume hydraulic fracturing until:

    The water withdrawal assessment tool has to be modified to:

    1. Take into consideration impacts from cumulative water withdrawals
    2. Accurately assess the impacts of high-volume, short-duration water withdrawals associated with fracking
    3. Take into consideration impacts to all rivers, streams, ponds, lakes and wetlands

    Oil and gas drillers would no longer be exempt from using the water withdrawal tool.

    Other bills would require:

    1. Full chemical disclosure prior to issuing a permit; no exemptions
    2. Public participation
      • Increase public notice to include all local units of government.
      • Require a public hearing if anyone requests one.
    3. Setbacks are increased from 300 or 450 feet from a residence to 5,000’ from the edge of the drilling pad. Schools, hospitals, public parks, and day-care facilities will be added to the setback requirements.
  • Water Assessment Tool (Hovey-Wright)

    Requires oil and gas drilling operations that use an average of 100,000 gallons of water per day or more in a 30-day period to use the state water withdrawal assessment tool to screen for adverse impacts on water resources. Currently, oil and gas drilling are exempt from this requirement.

    The bill will also require that the water assessment tool be modified to take into consideration impacts from cumulative water withdrawals; to accurately assess the impacts of high-volume, short-duration water withdrawals associated with fracking and to take into consideration impacts to all rivers, streams, ponds, lakes and wetlands.

  • Disclosure (Irwin)

    Requires disclosure of chemical additives (no trade secrets exemption) to be used in a proposed hydraulic fracturing operation as a condition for receiving a permit, which the DEQ shall publish on its website at least 60 days before making a permit decision to allow for public notice and comment. The bill requires the DEQ to reject an application if it determines that a less harmful fracking treatment is available. The bill also requires drillers to submit an annual report compiling total usage of fracking chemicals and to use a hydraulic fracking tracer.

  • Public Participation in the Permitting Process (Roberts)

    Under current law, the Supervisor of Wells has to give notice of a permit application to a county and local unit of government where a (oil and gas) well is to be located, if that local unit of government has a population of 70,000 or more. Individuals may request this same information/notice.

    Under this bill, a county, local unit of government or interested party may request a public hearing to take place in the community or the county where the well is proposed to be located.

  • Setbacks (Greig)

    The current setback from drilling operations is 300 feet, or 450 feet in cities or townships with more than 70,000 residents, and only residences are covered. This bill would remove the population limitation and increase setback requirements to 5,000 feet from the edge of the well pad.

    The legislation adds schools, hospitals, public parks and day care facilities to those requirements.

  • Rebuttable Presumption (Plawecki)

    Establishes a rebuttable presumption of liability for a fracking operation if chemicals associated with fracking or a hydraulic fracturing fluid tracer is found in nearby groundwater. Puts the presumed liability on the fracking operation.

  • Local Input (Chang)

    Allow counties and townships to regulate hydraulic fracturing operations. Under current law, counties and townships are specifically prohibited from regulating oil wells. Under this bill they could regulate such things as the operation, location and abandonment of these wells. They would not be able to prevent hydraulic fracturing from taking place.

  • Flowback Water (Cochran)

    Hydraulic fracturing involves the pumping of water and various chemicals into a well to stimulate oil and gas production. The liquid that comes back out of the wells is called "flowback and produced water" and may contain additional chemicals that are worse than went in. One community sprayed this flowback water onto dirt roads as a dust suppression tool in the summer. The DEQ doesn't allow it to happen anymore.

    This bill would put into law prohibiting spraying of flowback water on roads. This will only apply to hydraulic fracturing material.

  • Water Restoration (Roberts)

    A bill to require that fracking water has to be cleaned up. Water used for a gas or oil hydraulic fracturing operation has to be in compliance with water discharge criteria under Part 31 Prior to discharging that water into a surface water body or subsurface geologic formation. Part 31 of the Natural Resources and Environmental Protection Act (NREPA) contains the wastewater discharge and water pollution control programs administered by the state.

  • Aquifer Protection (Roberts)

    A bill to ban fracking wastes from injection into an aquifer. Water or any other material from a gas or oil hydraulic fracturing operation cannot be injected into an aquifer. An “Aquifer” means any water bearing bed or stratum of earth or rock capable of yielding groundwater to a water well in sufficient quantities that can be withdrawn.

  • Methane Flaring Ban (Roberts)

    Ban flaring. The operator of an oil or gas well cannot use flaring as a method to control methane emissions.

    Flaring is the controlled burning of natural gas and a common practice in oil and gas exploration, production and processing operations. Natural gas is primarily methane. However, methane is also a greenhouse gas that, when released directly into the air, traps heat in the atmosphere. Because of this, there are concerns about methane and other volatile organic compounds from oil and gas operations. The best option is to capture gas from wells, compressors and processing operations for re-use. While burning methane gas through a flare system contributes to greenhouse gases it is however better than venting it directly into the atmosphere.

    #3 and #4 are tie-barred.

  • Methane Recapture (Irwin)

    Require methane recapturing. An oil or gas well will be required to have a methane control or capture system that is capable of reducing emissions by 99%. Fracking wells often leak methane, which is a potent greenhouse gas and an explosion risk.

  • Radioactive Waste Ban (Irwin)

    Fracking waste often contains radioactive isotopes, and some Michigan landfills previously accepted radioactive waste from out-of-state fracking operations. This bill would ban the disposal of waste exceeding 5 picocuries per gram in Michigan landfills. Landfills would not be able to accept, annually, more than 2,000 cubic meters of technologically enhanced, naturally occurring radioactive material (TENORM). Any TENORM would have to be buried at least 10 feet below the landfill cap and kept separate from other wastes in the landfill.

  • VOC Emissions Ban (Irwin)

    Require monitoring for air pollution, particularly VOCs (Volatile Organic Compounds), near drilling sites. Fracking wells, compressors, and other equipment often leak hydrogen sulfide, methane, and volatile organic compounds such as hexane and benzene. These gases can present immediate and chronic threats to human health. This bill would require oil and gas companies to set up a system to check for leaks on a regular basis and repair them promptly.

Sign The Petition

Hydraulic fracturing, or "fracking," involves pumping high volumes of chemically treated water into the ground to release pockets of natural gas. These chemicals have the potential to enter and contaminate the groundwater, putting the health of families at risk. The oil and gas industry is an economic boon for Michigan, but we have to be responsible about our natural resources and the health of our neighbors. If fracking does pollute our inland water, Michigan's tourism economy and natural resources would undoubtedly suffer.

House Democrats are introducing legislation that will create sensible regulations on fracking in Michigan. It forces drilling companies to disclose the chemicals they are using in their wells. The bills hold companies accountable by requiring them to test for adverse effects on water resources and creating a liability if such effects are found. It maintains local control by allowing municipal governments to regulate fracking in their communities and requires public participation in the permitting process.

I am signing this petition to support these common-sense reforms for fracking. Michigan residents need to know their drinking water is safe, and that drilling companies are transparent and accountable for their actions.