PWIR: Earthquakes and Intrigue

The first PWIR of the new year, and the spirit of the election season is already upon us! Right off the bat, fracking is again topping headlines. We hope lawmakers will use 2012 to address the lack of transparency in the fracking industry. From earthquakes to angry northern Michigan farmers, the future of improving the safety of natural gas drilling depends on public awareness of the process.

In ths week's Political week in Review:

Fracking: Where Earthquakes and Corporate Intrigue Meet

While you were recovering from Christmas turkey, New Years champaign, and the inevitable inbox-shock back at the office, you may have missed this incredible article from Reuters. Hiding behind a complex series of shell companies, the energy production giant from Oklahoma, Chesapeake Energy, pulled off a land grab worthy of a John Grisham novel. The company-hidden-behind-another-company-hidden-behind-yet-another-company worked to sign up northern Michigan landowners in order to drill for natural gas on their land. However, as soon as Chesapeake suspected that the rock formation they were drilling might not be as lucrative as they once thought, they broke the leases and left Michigan landowners and farmers as high and dry as their test wells.

The legal intrigue of this aside, this story once again highlights the need for more transparency in fracking operations in the state. Michiganders not only deserves to know who is trying to purchase their land, but also what is being done to the water that runs through and under it. Specifically, we continue to push for greater transparency by disclosing what chemicals are used in fracking as well as how many millions of gallons of water are being used to frack each well.

The EPA’s release of findings last month that Wyoming wells were contaminated with fracking fluids points to the need for on-site chemical disclosure, while recent fracking-related earthquakes remind us of the need for greater openness in how well-sites are selected and monitored. Right now, in Michigan, massive water withdrawals for oil and gas drilling purposes are exempt from the usual reporting process.

We’ve said it before, and we’ll say it again: Michigan needs a bipartisan solution to increase transparency in fracking operations. Transparency increases public confidence and ensures greater safety at the same time: goals that should be at the heart of both businesses' and consumers' interests. We will be using 2012 to push Michigan legislators to reach the same conclusions.

CAFE in Detroit

No, not coffee. If you're looking for good coffee in Detroit, I recommend you go here. What I'm talking about are public hearings the EPA is holding in Detroit on Jan. 17 about the new Corporate Average Fuel Economy (CAFE) standards. Essentially, CAFE standards are the average miles per gallon that the vehicles produced by Ford, GM, Toyota, Chrysler, and other automakers' fleets must meet, cumulatively. The EPA’s proposed rule will require an average of 54.5 mpg for all 2017-2025 model year cars, light trucks, and SUVs.

The increased standards are an exciting, ambitious, and necessary step forward in America's push to lower our dependence on foreign oil and reduce tailpipe emissions. On a personal level, I really like my Ford Focus that gets 32mpg on the highway, but I can't help thinking about the amount of money I would save at the pump by nearly doubling my fuel efficiency.

This hearing on January 17th is one of only three that are being held nationwide and all citizens are welcome to walk to the mic and give their input. We will be there, too, and would love for you to join us. Shoot me an email if you're interesed in coming with us to stand up for the ambitious and necessary increases in there

2011 In Review

In case you missed it, 2011 was a big year for the politics of conservation. Michigan LCV rolled out its “How Green Is Your Governor Tool?” and the Governor earned a big fat Green mark for using his first veto to protect the Great Lakes. He also earned a nearly equal amount of red marks, though. Check out our cool Political Year in Review: By the Numbers for a quick infograph that encapsulates the actions of the Legislature, the Governor, and the Supreme Court... all in one page! The full PDF can be found here.

Hear Ye, Hear Me

Do you miss all the excitement of the rowdy town halls over the past two years? Don't worry: 2012 should have plenty. For an important start, please join us at a town hall meeting in Alpena tomorrow to discuss SB 248, a.k.a. the Land Cap Bill. Rep. Peter Pettalia (R – Presque Isle) will host the bill’s sponsor, Sen. Tom Casperson (R – Escanaba) to hear the thoughts of their constituents about the bill. Dozens of hunters and anglers who understand the damage that the land cap would have on conserving Michigan's forests and open spaces are attending to speak up. We'll be right there with them and reporting back later this week. Email Michigan LCV's Drew YoungDyke if you'd like to attend the town hall with him.

A quick refresher on Land Cap: Senator Casperson's bill would put a ceiling on the amount of land the state can own. We are pushing for changes to the bill as it is currently written to ensure that the protection of Michigan's natural resources is not handcuffed by an arbitrary limit on the number of acres that require preservation and management.

Until Next Week, 

Ryan Werder

Political Director

Email: ryan@michiganlcv.org

twitter: @rjwerder

This week's Political Week In Review was researched and written with the invaluable assistance of our Project Associate, Drew YoungeDyke.