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State proposes new “fracking” rules

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

State environmental regulators have rolled out proposed new rules to cover hydraulic “fracking” for natural gas. “Fracking” is a process where developers pump water and chemicals into a well to clear a path to hard-to-reach deposits of gas.

Michigan Department of Environmental Quality Director Dan Wyant says the rules are partially a response to public concerns over drilling innovations. They allow developers to use fracking to tap into hard-to-reach gas deposits. 

“There are changing technologies,” Wyant says. “The public is keenly interested in us protecting public health and the environment. We are addressing, particularly, in this case, water use, water monitoring, some transparency issues.”

Wyant says there have been some big problems in other states, but Michigan has a safe natural gas drilling record going back decades.

“It doesn’t mean a problem cannot happen. A problem can happen,” Wyant says. “We know that there are issues – nationally. We just need to be in a place to make sure that, A, that there is a strong regulation to prevent those things from happening, and, B, if they were to happen, we can respond quickly to minimize environmental damage.”

The new rules would require more reporting on water use, and make it easier for people to know where wells are being fracked as well as the chemicals that are being used.

A recent petition drive to ban fracking fizzled, but Democrats are also pushing for tougher regulations in the Legislature.


Rick Pluta is Senior Capitol Correspondent for the Michigan Public Radio Network. He has been covering Michigan’s Capitol, government, and politics since 1987.