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Michigan Chamber of Commerce steps into fracking debate

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

The Michigan Chamber of Commerce is getting into the debate over horizontal hydraulic fracturing, or fracking.

Fracking pumps a mixture of water, sand and chemicals into a well under high pressure to force open shale rock formations and extract natural gas. Vertical fracking has been done in Michigan for decades. But horizontal fracking is much newer, and it uses a larger amount of chemicals and millions of gallons of water per well. (For more information, check out Lester Graham's article, "Fracking for natural gas, the benefits and the risks.")

The Chamber of Commerce has launched a campaignthey’re calling “Protect Michigan’s Energy Future.”

Jason Geer is the director of energy and environmental policy at the Chamber. He says they started the campaign to push back against a grassroots group that’s trying to ban horizontal hydraulic fracking in Michigan.

“It was a competitiveness issue for Michigan and we wanted to make sure that voters understood what we were talking about, what (are) the benefits of natural gas for Michigan," he says.

Geer argues drilling for natural gas will bring more jobs to the state, and he says his group is confident Michigan’s current regulations on fracking are sufficient.

But LuAnne Kozma says nothing short of a ban will protect Michigan’s land and water.

She’s the campaign director for the Committee to Ban Fracking in Michigan. Her group is collecting signatures to put a voter-initiated law on the November 2014 ballot.

“When other legislation talks about protecting water just by regulating fracking, it doesn’t actually do the job of preventing the harm in the first place,” she says.

The group has until October to gather 258,088 signatures. Kozma declined to say how many signatures they've collected so far.

Rebecca Williams is senior editor in the newsroom, where she edits stories and helps guide news coverage.
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