Draft Hydraulic Fracturing in Michigan: Integrated Assessment Report

Graham Sustainability Institute, University of Michigan

[Detroit Free Press] …Among the policy considerations presented in the report:

■ Michigan could look to make more uniform its regulation of water withdrawals for high-volume fracturing, where more than 100,000 gallons of water — and sometimes millions of gallons — are used. While the state manages other types of large-scale water users through an established assessment process, withdrawals for high-volume fracking are managed through separate oil and gas regulations, said Shaw Lacy, author of the water resources section of the report, who is now a researcher at Catholic University in Santiago, Chile.

“Based on public comments, a lot of people in Michigan are worried about the extreme levels of groundwater extraction that high-volume hydraulic fracturing would require,” he said.

Fee schedules, like those used by the Susquehanna and Delaware River basin commissions in the eastern U.S., could also be implemented for high-volume hydraulic fracturing operations withdrawing large amounts of groundwater, the report found. The fees could be used to fund water improvements and regulation.

■ The report says policymakers can also consider more actively engaging with the public — particularly on concerns over high-volume fracking, which currently has the same types of notifications and public comment opportunities as other types of oil and gas development.

■ The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, between 2005 and 2011, identified more than 1,000 different chemicals that were either used in fracking fluids or found in associated wastewater, the report noted. Information on the chemicals’ risks to public health and the environment is currently limited, said Sara Gosman, lead author of the report’s chemical use chapter and now at the University of Arkansas.

It’s a common practice nationwide for oil and gas developers not to disclose the chemicals used until up to 60 days after a well is drilled — and drillers often keep specific chemical constituents private, citing them as trade secrets, Gosman said.

“There are states that require information about chemical use in the drilling permit application,” she said.

The Michigan Department of Environmental Quality’s proposed revisions to its fracking chemical usage rules include requirements that drillers disclose all chemicals used, before hydraulic fracking operations, and follow-up within 30 days after the fracking. The state could also consider prohibiting the use of certain chemicals, something it doesn’t presently do or propose to do, the report noted.

■ The state could also expand its fracking-related emergency response to fluid or chemical spills and well mishaps to include more immediate notification requirements; drillers currently must inform the state within eight hours of a larger spill. Cleanup standards could more expressly discuss environmental restoration requirements as well, the report found…

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