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As fracking debate continues in Michigan, Obama weighs in

A natural gas well.
World Resources Institute
A natural gas well.

Hydraulic fracturing or "fracking" has created no shortage of controversy recently. And as Michigan Radio's Rebecca Williams reported last week, debate over this controversial method of extracting oil and gas from deep inside shale deposits has made its way to the Michigan statehouse.

The issue splits Lansing along partisan lines, Williams says, with Republican lawmakers and Governor Rick Snyder touting the economic benefits of fracking. And Democrats calling for a moratorium pending study of environmental impacts.

Fracking involves pumping sand, water and a mix of chemicals into drill sites and critics worry about effects on things like groundwater.

Now, according to the New York Times, the Obama administration has issued a set of rules for fracking on federal land that some say come down squarely in the pro-fracking camp.

A central issue in the fracking debate is whether companies have to disclose what chemicals they pump into the ground.

While the new rules due require disclosure, it's not in the way opponents hoped:

In a significant concession to the oil industry, companies would have to reveal the composition of fluids only after the drilling of a well is completed, not before, a sharp change from the government’s original proposal, which would have required disclosure of the chemicals 30 days before a well could be started. The weakening of the rule followed a series of meetings at the White House after the original regulation was proposed in February. Lobbyists representing oil industry trade associations and individual major producers... met with officials of the Office of Management and Budget, who reworked the rule to address industry concerns.

According to Williams' report, Michigan issued new regulations last year covering fracking on private and state-owned land requiring drillers to "give the state Department of Environmental Quality safety information about the chemicals they’re using – but they do not have to report anything that’s considered a trade secret."

The new Obama administration rules would only apply to land in Michigan that is owned by Indian tribes or the federal government.

-John Klein Wilson, Michigan Radio Newsroom

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