Michigan Quarterly Report–Summer, 2013
Ongoing Issues: Sulfide Mining, Fracking
More needs to be done to protect the Upper Great lakes
League of Women Voters of Michigan and League of Women Voters of Minnesota strongly believe more can be done to protect the shared watershed of Lake Superior from cumulative effects of sulfide mining exploration and development. For background on the environmental dangers of this mining process, see this slide show prepared by the National Wildlife Association: Sulfide Mining in Upper Great Lakes.
Therefore, using the power of our Great Lakes Ecosystem position and with approval from LWVUS, LWVMI, and LWVMN joined to send a letter to the International Joint Commission (IJC) calling for action. As an individual, don’t forget that your voice matters, too. Review the slideshow and tell us (and your legislators) what you think.
2014 EPA report on fracking: will it be thorough and complete?
We joined LWVUS and League of Women Voters of Pennsylvania in a letter to the EPA expressing our concern about flaws in the preliminary report released on fracking. The final report is much anticipated and to be released next year. (See the basics here at EPA Fracking Report). We found that the preliminary report has omitted data on water quality issues in Texas, Colorado, as well as data in other Western states; these ecological problems are related to fracking, it is suspected.
Within the League and Behind the Scenes
What happened at the LWVMI Annual Convention
Speaker Informs Us About How Michigan Laws Do Not Help Our Cause
At the LWVMI Convention, James Clift (Policy Director of Michigan Environmental Council) outlined deficiencies in Michigan law that needed to change to protect our environment from the effects of fracking. These are:
- An end to the industry’s exemption from water withdrawal rules. In the past gas wells typically used 50,000 gallons of fresh water per well. Today they can use tens of millions of gallons.
- Elimination of disclosure loopholes on types and amounts of toxic chemicals used.
- Ensuring safe disposal of toxic fracking fluids in disposal wells designed for hazardous waste. I’ll go one farther and call for recycling technology currently available but not being used in states with plentiful water resources.
- Mandatory use of tracer chemicals that will fingerprint the fracking fluid from individual wells.
- A review of baseline testing requirements is needed. Currently we only require one groundwater monitoring well. The high-pressure fracking fluid can release naturally occurring toxic substances for which the gas companies will not accept responsibility.
Summary of convention actions, endorsements, and conclusions
Biodiversity: LWVMI opposed the removal of biodiversity in state legislation as a value to protect land. See more here.
Wetlands: LWVMI opposed additional exemptions for wetland permits. Michigan is one of two states presently administering their state wetland permits. The new proposal may not meet EPA standards and we risk losing the program.
Ballast Water standards: LWVMI opposed weakening ballast water standards. Michigan has led in this area also, while other states have been slow to follow. The state is now proposing to revert back to EPA standards.
LWVMI opposed using our Natural Resource Trust Fund for dredging. This trust fund has been constitutionally protected by the people to be used for acquisition of land. The use of this money for dredging is unsustainable. The Governor did budget for additional dredging, so this source of funding from the Trust Fund should not be necessary. The Attorney General ruled the use of Trust Fund money for dredging was not permissible. Despite these facts, the bill has moved through the Senate and waits House vote. MI Attorney General Bill Schuette supports our position, as you can read here: No NRTF for dredging.
–Submitted by Michigan delegate Suzanne Dixon