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Environmentalists pan proposed fracking rules as comment period ends

Michiganders have until the end of Thursday to tell state officials what they think of proposed new rules for fracking.

The ruleswould require oil and gas companies to do more water quality testing and provide more information to the public.

But environmental groups say the rules fall short. They sent a letterto the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) on Thursday asking for tougher regulations.

Jack Schmitt with the Michigan League of Conservation Voters says the DEQ has shown interest in working with them.

“I think the results will speak for themselves, though,” said Schmitt. “If we get rules that don’t reflect any of the comments, then I think we’re going to have to question how important this process was to the DEQ.”

If that turns out to be the case, Schmitt says his group and others could try to ask Michigan voters to approve tougher rules.

“Hopefully the rules come and they’re stronger and (the state has) taken into consideration our requests,” he said. “If not, I think we’ll take a look at the lay of the land politically and make a determination whether or not going to the Legislature, working again with the administration, or going down that ballot initiative is the correct way.”

Some environmental groups have talked about collecting signatures next year to put a question on the ballot that would ban fracking outright in Michigan. Schmitt says his group does not support banning the practice at this time.

The DEQ says fracking has never caused an environmental problem in Michigan. But it says the proposed rules would make accidents less likely in the future.