Detroit, Mich. – Last Friday, Detroit’s City Council became the first in Michigan to pass a resolution supporting a ban on a controversial gas drilling technique known as fracking. The Council passed the resolution unanimously. Council member JoAnn Watson offered up the resolution, and several local activists attended the Council meeting to show their support. In banning fracking, Detroit joins 65 other municipalities across the United States who have taken action against the practice.
“Detroit sent a strong message indicating that a ban on fracking is necessary to protect public health and preserve Michigan’s natural resources,” said Lynna Kaucheck of Food & Water Watch. "Michigan sits in the middle of 20 percent of the world’s available fresh water; that means we have a distinct responsibility to protect this vital natural resource. The time to ban fracking in Michigan is now."
Fracking involves injecting water, sand and toxic chemicals deep underground to break up dense rock formations and release natural gas. Opponents of fracking cite the high potential for water and air pollution as a leading reason to ban the practice. Over 1,000 cases of water contamination have been reported near fracking sites.
Public opposition to fracking has escalated in recent months, with concerned residents and environmental and consumer advocacy groups campaigning against the practice. Recent reports show that oil and gas interests have leased nearly $200 million worth of Michigan-owned drilling rights in the Collingwood-Utica formation in the last year. The Collingwod-Utica formation is a deep shale deposit that rests under the northern portion of Michigan’s lower peninsula.
"Its time our state lawmakers truly put the state of Michigan and its tourism and agriculture industries ahead of greedy oil and gas interests" said Kaucheck. "We need to support the industries that make our state great, instead of selling of our natural resources to the highest bidder."
In other parts of the Midwest where fracking is increasingly common, residents have reported complications ranging from headaches and blackouts, noxious odors in the air and sudden blindness, hair loss and death among their livestock.
A 2011 Cornell University study found that the process of fracking also releases methane, which according to the EPA, is 21 times more damaging of a greenhouse gas than carbon dioxide. Similarly, a study released by researchers at Duke University in April found methane levels in shallow drinking water wells near active gas drilling sites at a level 17 times higher than those near inactive ones.
“This resolution is a great first step and a bold statement from the Detroit City Council,” said Kaucheck. “We hope that other municipalities and the state follow suit.”
Earlier this year, the U.S. House and Energy Commerce Committee determined that 14 oil companies had injected 780 million gallons of fracking chemicals and other substances into U.S. wells between 2005 and 2009. This included 10.2 million gallons of fluids containing known or suspected carcinogens.
The companies however, are not required to disclose the chemicals in fracking fluid, which they claim should be protected as a “trade secret”. They are also exempt from seven major federal environmental laws, including the Clean Water Act.
Scientists at the Endocrine Disruption Exchange who tested fracking fluids found that 25 percent can cause cancer; 37 percent can disrupt the endocrine system; and 40 to 50 percent can affect the nervous, immune and cardiovascular systems.
Last month Food & Water Watch released a report entitled The Case for a Ban on Fracking. The report reveals how the natural gas industry’s use of water-intensive, toxic, unregulated practices for natural gas extraction are compromising public health and polluting water resources across the country.