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E-M:/ Public forum on Great Lakes drilling to be held in Grand Rapids

For Immediate Release

January 24, 2002


Cyndi Roper, Michigan Director

Clean Water Action

Phone: 616-742-4084 • Fax: 616-742-4072



Hans Voss, Executive Director

Michigan Land Use Institute

Phone: 231-882-4723, ext. 12 • Fax: 231-882-7350

Email: hans@mlui.org • Web site: www.mlui.org


Tom Leonard, Executive Director

West Michigan Environmental Action Council

Phone: 616-451-3051 • Fax: 616-451-3054

Email: tleonard@wmeac.org Web site: www.wmeac.org



Stop Great Lakes Drilling

Michigan conservation and environmental groups to hold public forum in Grand Rapids


Grand RapidsConservation and environmental organizations representing residents from across the state of Michigan will hold a public forum on oil and gas drilling beneath the Great Lakes at 7 p.m. on Monday, January 28, 2002 in Grand Rapids. The forum will provide citizens with an opportunity to share their views on new legislation that would prohibit any new drilling beneath the lakes. All 20 state lawmakers representing the west Michigan region have been invited to attend.

            “This is an important opportunity for Grand Rapids-area voters and lawmakers to take each other’s pulse on this significant statewide issue,” says Tom Leonard, executive director of the West Michigan Environmental Action Council. “All Michigan residents have a stake in what lawmakers will decide.”

The public forum will take place at Aquinas College in Room 141 of the Lacks Center (adjacent to the Jarecki Center) located at 159 Woodward Lane, just north of Robinson Road. The program will begin with an informational presentation at 7 p.m. Citizens and elected officials will speak from 7:40 to 9 p.m.

            On December 11, the Michigan House Conservation and Outdoor Recreation Committee presented House Bill 5118, introduced by Representative Scott Shackleton (R - Sault Ste. Marie) to ban directional drilling below the Great Lakes. The full House and Senate will consider the measure early this year. The state legislation follows federal action this fall, when the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives both passed measures barring federal approval for oil and gas exploration beneath the Great Lakes.

More than six in 10 likely Michigan voters oppose oil and gas exploration under the Great Lakes. But despite the strong opposition by citizens and lawmakers at every level of government, the Michigan Department of Natural Resources and the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality continue to advance plans to let energy companies drill from the shoreline for a very small amount of oil and gas.

The public forum is sponsored by Clean Water Action, the Michigan Environmental Council, the Michigan Land Use Institute, and the West Michigan Environmental Action Council. It will provide citizens, as well as local and state elected officials, an opportunity to learn the latest information on the issue and tips for joining the vast majority of Michigan residents in supporting a permanent ban on Great Lakes drilling. Sponsors also include the Clean Water Fund, the Izaak Walton League of West Michigan, Lake Michigan Federation, Public Interest Research Group in Michigan, Timberland Resource Conservation and Development, and the West Michigan Sierra Club.

Each of Michigan’s gubernatorial candidates and the meeting sponsors agree that the risk to the shoreline far outweigh the benefits from new drilling. The amount of oil and gas that energy companies could extract from under the Great Lakes over 20 years, according to state estimates, would power the country for only 33 hours.

Such a minor benefit would come at great cost. “Oil and gas drilling along the Great Lakes shoreline will harm the local economies of dozens of shoreline communities that rely on tourism and are built upon the beauty and ecological integrity of the fragile shoreline,” says Hans Voss, executive director for the Michigan Land Use Institute. “Every Michigan citizen would suffer tremendous loss as the shoreline becomes crisscrossed with drilling pads, pipelines, and service roads.”

The state had the opportunity to improve their regulations and reduce the risk posed by Great Lakes drilling. The Michigan Environmental Science Board, appointed by Governor John Engler, recommended in 1997 that Michigan take comprehensive precautions before allowing any new wells, pipelines, processing facilities, or roads for Great Lakes drilling. MESB advised the state to conduct extensive environmental assessments and plan carefully for future energy development, together with local governments and other stakeholders, before leasing Great Lakes bottomlands. But the Michigan Department of Natural Resources, the state agency responsible for managing the million acres of Great Lakes bottomlands, and the Department of Environmental Quality, which permits new wells, have not abided by the MESB’s key recommendations.

“Years of inaction have proven that these agencies, under current management, are not able to provide adequate protection for the shoreline,” Mr. Voss said. “At this point, a legislative ban is the only solution.”