The Michigan Senate today authorized oil and gas drilling below the Great Lakes in language included in the Department of Environmental Quality budget (HB 4257). The Senate stripped language that had been put on the bill in subcommittee that would have extended the current moratorium on directional drilling for an additional year.
“The administration has caved into the demands of the oil and gas industries and ignored key recommendations of the Michigan Environmental Science Board (MESB) designed to protect Michigan’s fragile coastal zone area by their action today,” stated James Clift, Policy Director of the Michigan Environmental Council. “The Senate has ignored recommendations of the state’s own scientists including requiring comprehensive planning, performing environmental impact studies prior to leasing and using only the existing wellheads and roads in the development of these reserves,” stated Clift.
The Lake Michigan Federation recently issued a report that pointed out serious flaws in the oversight and enforcement program of the MDEQ. “Until the department addresses these deficiencies, a moratorium on directional drilling activities is the only way to go,” stated Tanya Cabala, Michigan Director of the Lake Michigan Federation.
Critics have charged that the administration is using the excuse of higher gas prices to place in jeopardy the tourism and recreation based industries that are dependant on preserving Michigan’s natural resources. The administration seems to willing to open up the oil and gas reserves but is getting no guarantees of relief from higher gases prices in exchange.
Environmental groups were surprised by the administration position since they had been working with a Department of Natural Resources workgroup on this issue and had recently submitted comments. “This amendment sends the message that the administration has decided that they are going to proceed with drilling regardless of the input from the local communities, environment and conservation organizations, stated Arlin Wasserman, Policy Director of the Michigan Land Use Institute. “The MESB sighted the state’s failure to involve these key groups as one of the fundamental flaws with the MDNR and MDEQ approach to oil and gas development,” stated Wasserman.
The bill will likely move to a conference committee where the language could be modified to continue the moratorium on drilling or add further restrictions.
James Clift (517) 487-9539 (MEC)
Tanya Cabala (231) 855-1871 (LMF)
Arlin Wasserman (231) 882-4723