Skip to main content
A Better Partnership

Publications

May 2013
06
May 06, 2013

Challenges to Hydraulic Fracturing in Michigan Continue


Despite the lack of any reported environmental contamination in connection with the use of hydraulic fracturing in Michigan, challenges to the controversial completion practice persist. The Committee to Ban Fracking in Michigan recently announced a ballot initiative to impose a ban on horizontal hydraulic fracturing in Michigan and challenged the Michigan Public Service Commission’s (MPSC) approval of two natural gas pipeline applications.

In January, Encana Oil & Gas applied to the MPSC for regulatory approval to construct and operate two natural gas pipelines that  would connect two of Encana’s wells to gas sales pipelines. In the applications, Encana said  it “anticipates that it will drill a significant number of wells” near the two pipelines within the “next several years.” In accordance with its common practice to approve pipeline applications on an ex parte basis, the MPSC approved the applications on January 31, 2013.

More than  a month later, on behalf of two northern Michigan residents, attorney Ellis Boal, a member of the Committee to Ban Fracking in Michigan’s advisory board, filed petitions to intervene and requests for evidentiary hearings regarding the MPSC’s approval of the pipelines. The residents objected to the MPSC’s approval of the pipelines on the basis that, by their estimations, inadequate environmental impact assessments accompanied Encana’s applications. The residents claimed that the “assessments were incomplete and deficient . . . especially in that they do not take account of the applicant’s plan for hundreds of wells and associated pipelines around the area, nor do they take account of their effect on nearby terrain, plant, and wildlife.” 
Specifically, the residents claimed that the cumulative effect of drilling and pipeline construction operations “will lead to industrialization of the northern lower peninsula’s state forests and wetlands, encroachment of opportunistic exotic species, and diminution of habitat for Kirtland Warblers and other protected species.” Though the attempted intervention sought to challenge the pipeline approvals, in effect, the objections sought to challenge the entire oil and gas development process in northern Michigan.

Encana objected to the petitions on procedural grounds. The MPSC denied the petitions last month on the basis that the residents did not have standing to challenge Encana’s applications because they had failed to establish they will suffer any “concrete or discernible injury in fact.”

While the MPSC rejected these challenges, there are likely to be more in the coming months.  In response to the considerable amount of disinformation regarding the hydraulic fracturing process, Michigan Department of Environmental Quality and Department of Natural Resources officials have been scheduling regular information sessions on the safe development of oil and gas resources. With a possible ballot initiative and other challenges on the horizon, the debate over hydraulic fracturing will continue, as will efforts to educate the public.

NOTICE. Although we would like to hear from you, we cannot represent you until we know that doing so will not create a conflict of interest. Also, we cannot treat unsolicited information as confidential. Accordingly, please do not send us any information about any matter that may involve you until you receive a written statement from us that we represent you.

By clicking the ‘ACCEPT’ button, you agree that we may review any information you transmit to us. You recognize that our review of your information, even if you submitted it in a good faith effort to retain us, and even if you consider it confidential, does not preclude us from representing another client directly adverse to you, even in a matter where that information could and will be used against you.

Please click the ‘ACCEPT’ button if you understand and accept the foregoing statement and wish to proceed.

ACCEPTCANCEL

Text

+ -

Reset