BAN Fracking in Michigan Talking Points

BAN Fracking Michigan Supplies Misguided Rhetoric to Voters

Overview:

We believe there are a lot of positive things to say about how the oil and gas industry is producing the energy resources Michigan needs today in a safe, clean and responsible way. The Ban Michigan Fracking (BAN) groups don’t like to talk about the fact that U.S. energy production has brought manufacturing in the US and Michigan back from the brink, increasing job and wage growth.

We disagree with the irresponsible notion of banning the very technologies and practices that are making exploration safer, smarter and better than ever before. The BAN initiative presents us with an all-or-nothing decision on a process that nearly every regulator, from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to the Michigan Dept. of Environmental Quality (DEQ), say can and is being done safely. 

Using misguided hyperbole such as “Rents and STDs skyrocket” among oil and gas industry workers, the BAN group is grasping at straws in order to attempt to dissuade the public of Michigan, and the United States’ need for these resources and this industry.

A ban is quite simply overreach.

Here are some of the misguided talking points:

 

The petition only affects “new” horizontal wells:

Our opponents say that the petition drive would only ban hydraulic fracturing in “new” horizontal well bores. However, if this were to pass, over time you would have no oil and gas production in MI at all. It is a garble of mixed regulations that ban entire treatment techniques and production technologies that are used in every well, not just “new” horizontal wells.  This is not a drafting mistake, this is their intent.  It is another example of their overreach.

 

The Fracking process is a threat to public health and water supplies: 

The EPA said in an early June report that it found no evidence fracking has a “widespread” impact on drinking water.

Officials were unable to find “evidence that these mechanisms [of potentially affecting water] have led to widespread, systemic impacts on drinking water resources in the United States.” The study was undertaken over several years and we worked very closely with industry throughout the process.

It couldn't be clearer that shale development is occurring in conjunction with environmental protection and the claims by anti-fracking activists have been thoroughly debunked.

 

There are over 600 Chemicals used in the process.  The “Parade of Horribles”:

99% of fracturing fluid is water and sand.  The 600 chemicals is a list of every additive ever used in any fracked well anywhere.  The typical well uses between 10 and 12 additives in the process.  You can find a list of common chemicals on the DEQ website or go the FRACFOCUS.org and look up Michigan wells to see exactly what was used.

 

5% Casing failures: 

This is a perfect example of the misdirection from the BAN people.  The 5% is from a Cornell University report on wells in Pennsylvania, not Michigan.  When we checked with the DEQ we were told our failure rate is below 1%.  It is also important to note that we test our casings ahead of fracturing as well as monitoring casing pressure continuously through the frac job. The operation is shut down immediately if there is a change that could potentially compromise casing integrity. If there is a loss of integrity, it would be to the inner-most casing string and we would still have at least one additional string of casing and cement protecting the fresh water.  It makes no sense to BAN fracking in Michigan because of issues specific to only Pennsylvania.

 

Water pollution:

The DEQ has indicated that there has never been a situation of groundwater contamination associated with the 12,000 wells in Michigan that have been hydraulically fractured.  That being said, we are very diligent in our efforts to assure that this doesn’t happen in the future. That's why EVERY well, not just hydraulically fractured wells, are designed specifically to protect fresh water. By regulation there is not one, but at least two layers of cement and steel that protect our fresh water aquifers. Also, in wells used for the injection and disposal, they are monitored for mechanical integrity of the inner-most steel casing string and injection/disposal is ceased immediately if casing integrity is lost. 

 

Casing and cement isn’t perfect, all you have to do is look at Michigan roads to see what can happen: 

This is a gross mischaracterization as the casing doesn’t have the wear and tear of thousands of pounds of traffic rumbling over it daily.  There are at least two, and in some cases three layers of cement and steel to prevent anything in the well from coming into contact with anything outside the well.  We do test the casing ahead of a frac, but we also monitor casing pressure throughout the frac job and shut down immediately if there is a change that could potentially be a loss of casing integrity. If there was a loss of integrity it would be to the inner-most casing string and we would still have at least one additional string of casing and cement protecting the fresh water.  Again, the DEQ has indicated there’s never been a situation of groundwater contamination associated with the 12,000 wells in Michigan that have been hydraulically fractured.

 

Use of Acid to treat wells: 

Acid is used throughout the country to treat wells, including water wells.

 

Lack of transparency and secrecy:

For too many years companies were unwilling to talk about the additives used in fracturing operations. But, for us, this position has hurt public confidence in or industry. We needed to make a change and become more open and straightforward. Thankfully, we’ve taken important steps toward transparency.  MOGA member companies support disclosure of hydraulic fracturing fluids through a state-based registry launched by the Interstate Oil and Gas Compact Commission (IOGCC) and the Ground Water Protection Council (GWPC), which is publicly accessible at FracFocus.org. 

 

Too much water used and it is forever lost in disposal wells:

Michigan is blessed with abundant water; it’s our greatest natural resource. It’s vital to our economic advantage, and we use it to produce so many things that benefit our everyday lives – corn to cars, chemicals to batteries….It’s a key ingredient in our ability to produce energy.  Some fracking operations use a lot of water, no question.  However, it is important to note that overall, oil and gas use less than 0.05% of MI’s commercial water. 

Regardless of how much we use relative to other industries, we know it is important that we be good stewards of this resource. That’s why we continue to look for conservation opportunities to use less, recycle some and support tech innovations that one day will mean no water use for producing the energy we all use. 

We also take seriously the charge that we have destroyed water in the HF process and therefore have to inject the water underground.  The literature being distributed by the BAN group speaks of “huge amounts of contaminated waste.” Do you know that the exact same process of using water in a production process and then injecting it into the ground permanently is used to process Maraschino Cherries in Traverse City?  That water can never be used again and it is injected into the exact same type of wells that oil and gas use.    

 

Injection sites are not “containers”: 

Actually, since oil and gas fields held oil or gas in place for millions of years, they really are better “containers” than anything ever built by man.  Oil and gas naturally migrate upward until they meet an impermeable barrier.  That is what creates an oil field.  By reusing the depleted fields, we are actually using containers with a multi-million year track record.

 

187 cleanup sites: 

First off, this is misleading as the 187 sites are not associated with the 12,000 HF wells.  This comes from a 2001 report that cited over 2800 NREPA sites statewide, of which 187 were oil and gas related.  NONE of these sites has anything to do with fracking.  Most are old wells in fields drilled more than 50 years ago when our practices and regulations were much different than today. The 187 figure actually is of all wells drilled, which numbers over 61,000 during the 80+ years of the industry.  We aren’t perfect, but we think we have an extremely strong track record.

 

Concluding thoughts:

  • “The drilling of wells and hydraulic fracturing fragments farmland, rendering it less useful.”  Let’s check this accusation from their brochure to get the wording right:

The drilling of horizontal wells means fewer wells drilled than if vertical wells were used.  The typical horizontal wells replaces as many as 16 vertical wells.  Since the greatest danger to groundwater comes from the handling of water AT THE SURFACE, fewer wells means less risk. 

 

  • Furthermore, complaints of “whole neighborhoods los(ing) value when anyone allows drilling” can be countered by cases in both Pennsylvania and Texas in which property values have skyrocketed. In areas of Pennsylvania property values are nearly double their New York neighbors a few miles down the road where hydraulic fracturing was completely banned by Gov. Cuomo in 2014.

 

  • As Interior Secretary Sally Jewell told the National Press Club in 2013 “By using directional drilling and fracking, we have an opportunity to have a softer footprint on the land”.

 

Closing:

This is the third attempt by the Ban Michigan Fracking group to get this ill-informed initiative on the ballot.  The accusations against the process hasn’t changed.  However, the science is catching up with the allegations. 

Current EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy said in 2013:

There is NOTHING inherently dangerous in fracking that sound engineering practice can’t accomplish”. 

Interior Secretary Sally Jewell told the National Press Club in 2013 “By using directional drilling and fracking, we have an opportunity to have a softer footprint on the land”.

“Oil and gas drilling, like all human activities, is not risk-free; however, hydraulic fracturing has a long and safe history in Michigan.  We have not had any instances of environmental damage from hydraulic fracturing, and the technology has been used in over 12,000 wells since 1952, at least 40 of which were high-volume horizontal wells.” Hal Fitch

Nothing inherently dangerous in the hydraulic fracturing process—a softer footprint on the land, fewer wells drilled and clean natural gas; If we do it right, we get cleaner air, cleaner water, and cleaner land. We also get greater national security and less dependence on Middle Eastern oil, more American innovation and more jobs for Michiganders.

That’s why you see groups like the MI Chamber of Commerce leading the charge in protecting hydraulic fracturing.  Energy and energy prices drive our state’s economy.  Hydraulic fracturing has made it possible for us to safely produce energy at low prices, bringing about the economic renaissance you see here in MI today.

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