Michigan announces new transparency measures for fracking

(Image: screen shot from YouTube video "My Water's on Fire Tonight")

Natural gas companies will be required to document their water use and regulators will publish some information about the chemicals used in the fracking process under rules announced Wednesday by the state Dept. of Environmental Quality.

Hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, is a method of natural gas extraction that uses large amounts of water, chemicals and sand to blast gas deposits from shale deep underground.

DEQ said that fracking operators will now be required to report the total volume of the water they recover from the wells they pump. The agency will also require operators to disclose all Material Safety Data Sheets and post that information on the department’s website for public review.

LuAnne Kozma of Don’t Frack Michigan said that DEQ’s new rules will not protect against damage from fracking.

Regulators are not looking at the cumulative effect of water withdrawals for fracking, she said, and MSDS sheets do not provide full information about the chemicals pumped into the ground.

“The MSDS sheets are for a frack “product” which then lists “ingredients” within that product that may or may not be proprietary and still remain secret right on the MSDS’s,” she said via e-mail. “The chemical compounds are parts of those ingredients.”

“Disclosure does not mean protection. Just because a chemical compound is now identified and named, doesn’t mean it is now okay to use it to permanently pollute our water.”

Earlier this month the Sierra Club, Clean Water Action and others called for a suspension of fracking operations in Michigan until regulators can ensure that gas company water withdrawals won’t harm water resources. They also called for disclosure of specific chemicals used in fracking, and for the public to be included in the permitting process for fracking operations.

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