Michigan State Rep. Lisa Brown, D-West Bloomfield, has been concerned about what goes into the ground when companies drill to get gas out. And when property in her own county, Oakland, went up for sale in yesterday’s state mineral rights auction of more than 100,000 acres, she decided to ask that the public be informed about it.
Brown introduced House Bill 5565, which would require companies drilling for gas in Michigan to disclose what chemicals they are using in the hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, process. The bill has been referred to the House Committee on Energy and Technology.
“This wouldn’t prohibit companies from fracking,” Brown said. “It would just require disclosure before they could put the chemicals into the ground, and whether the process is the least dangerous way to get the gas, and if it’s not, they’d have to say why they’re not using the least dangerous way.”
The bill would also allow for public comment, which is not required now.
Not that the public has remained silent on the issue. Yesterday, environmental groups around the state engaged in protests, concerned over fracking in the Great Lakes State (The Great Lakes are the largest supply of fresh ground water in the world).
Closer to home, Brown said she’s concerned because even though Oakland County is population-dense, many residents in her district are still using well water, particularly in Commerce Township.
“This legislation would protect everyone. It would protect people, and it would protect the companies. If they have disclosed what chemicals they’re using, and the chemicals aren’t dangerous, they couldn’t be held liable later on,” Brown said.
It would also allow for trade secrets to be protected, something that opponents of disclosure have voiced concern about.
She said that she hopes that all of her colleagues and the governor, regardless of their political leanings, would be in favor of the bill.
“We talk about transparency and accountability all the time in Lansing. People in both parties say it’s important,” Brown said. “I’m trying to promote that.”
Michigan Department of Natural Resources spokesman Ed Golder said that in yesterday’s auction, the state leased 91,225 acres in 23 counties, for a total of $4,118,848, or an average of about $39.90 per acre. He described it as a fairly normal auction. In May 2010, the state brought in a record-breaking $178 million, or $1,500 per acre.