Fracking, oil drilling a threat to Oakland County lakes, water quality chief says

Fracking, oil drilling a threat to Oakland County lakes, water quality chief says by Bill Laitner, April 24, 2013, Detroit Free Press
Oakland County’s recently elected chief of water quality has challenged what he says is lenient acceptance of oil and gas development by county and state governments that could bring the controversial process called fracking to metro Detroit. Jim Nash is holding a series of meetings to discuss the environmental risks posed by drilling for oil and gas. At a meeting tonight in Ferndale, Nash said Oakland County can’t afford the risks, especially those posed by fracking — a drilling method that involves fracturing rock miles underground with high-pressure water mixed with noxious chemicals. But state and county officials said there is no proposal to allow fracking in Oakland County. State environmental officials say they’re boycotting Nash’s fracking meetings because his fears are misplaced.

The Michigan Department of Environmental Quality announced today that it would hold its own meetings to answer the public’s questions on fracking, starting April 30 in Troy at the MSU Management Education Center, 811 W. Square Lake Road, followed by others in May in Muskegon and Traverse City. Defenders of fracking — including state officials with MDEQ — said the process has long been used, particularly to extract natural gas from deeply buried shale that couldn’t be tapped before. The process was widely reported to have spurred a boom in natural gas that slashed prices for U.S. consumers.

Nash, speaking to about 75 people tonight at Ferndale City Hall, said he fears that oil and gas exploration will contaminate wells and groundwater as well as surface water in Oakland County, which has more than a thousand lakes. “And it’s not just fracking that’s an issue. The requests in Oakland County for oil and gas (drilling) leases are really piling up,” Nash told the group. He said he worries about water pollution deep underground and “truck traffic, potential surface spills, serious noise and light at night, the fumes coming up — it’s all going to have an effect on property values.” Before the meeting, Nash said Oakland County officials are in the process of leasing “thousand of acres of public land for exploration and possible drilling.” That includes public park lands, although the drilling equipment likely would be located miles away, and it would use horizontal drilling technology to extraction oil and gas from far beneath he parks’ surface, he said. … At the Ferndale meeting, speaker after speaker — some wearing Green Party T-shirts — stood before Nash to denounce fracking and other forms of drilling. Instead of constantly seeking more oil and gas, “I don’t understand why we don’t talk more about conservation,” said Tom Allen, 64, of Royal Oak.

Moving through the audience were petitions to block all fracking in the state. “We need 300,000 signatures” to get the measure on the November 2014 ballot, said petition carrier Janice Wheelock, 63, of Royal Oak.

Nash’s next public meeting to discuss fracking and drilling for petroleum is to be on May 15 in Brandon Township Hall at 6 p.m. [Emphasis added]

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