The People of America's Oil and Natural Gas Indusry

Superseding Fracking Fiction

Mark Green

Mark Green
Posted August 17, 2012

“We will never have bipartisan support for a sensible, comprehensive domestic energy policy until realism and fact can supersede ideology and fiction."

The line above, from Southern Methodist University’s Bernard Weinstein and quoted in yesterday’s post on energy policy, bears regular repeating because of the damaging role misinformation and deception play in hindering development of America’s energy resources.

In the interests of promoting “realism and fact” in the discussion of hydraulic fracturing, check out this Q&A produced earlier this year by the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality. We haven’t seen a better one-stop shop for basic information as well as the debunking of fracking myths – from flammable water faucets to earthquakes (h/t Steve Everley). Some highlights:

Q: Has hydraulic fracturing been responsible for environmental damage in Michigan?
A: No.

Q: Some are calling for a halt on fracking so it can be studied. What does DEQ think?
A: State regulators have been studying hydraulic fracturing in action for five decades. As the lead regulatory agency in Michigan, the DEQ does not support halting an activity that has been regularly used without serious incident.

Q: Does the DEQ support hydraulic fracturing?
A: The Michigan Department of Environmental Quality exists to protect the environment and public health by regulating industrial activity that impacts Michigan’s air, water and soil. The DEQ regulates gas and oil production in Michigan. Hydraulic fracturing is a common technique that has been used on more than 12,000 wells in Michigan for more than 50 years without any consequence to the environment or public health. If this process posed a threat to the public or the environment, the DEQ would further regulate it or outlaw it. To the contrary, Michigan’s regulatory structure has been held up as a national model for effective, protective regulation.

Q: Does the DEQ support further regulating or stopping hydraulic fracturing?
A: The DEQ regularly updates its regulations to reflect changes in the environment, available technology or to industry. The hydraulic fracturing regulations were updated in 2011. The environmental and public health issues in other states have never happened here because the DEQ monitors gas and oil production in Michigan very carefully. The DEQ is confident in its ability to protect the public and allow the gas and oil industry to continue developing local energy.

Q: I’ve heard that hydraulic fracturing causes earthquakes.
A: Not True. However, there have been some instances where deep wells used for disposal of waste fluids from gas and oil development were associated with small earthquakes under specific conditions. Michigan does not have the conditions necessary for this to occur.

Q: I saw a video where someone lit their tap water on fire. Is that from hydraulic fracturing?
A: No. There have been a few rare cases where gas from drilling operations has escaped into fresh water aquifers; however, that was caused by improper well construction, not hydraulic fracturing. Where gas occurs in water wells, it is almost always from natural pockets of methane gas. Over time, gas seeps into the water well and is transmitted into the home. It has been documented in Michigan public health advisories dating back to the 1960s. It has never been associated with hydraulic fracturing.

Q: I heard that horizontal fracking is a threat to water supplies.
A: Not true. When anyone – whether it is a soft drink bottling plant, an industrial company or a municipal water supplier – proposes to use a large amount of water, that proposal is entered into a computer program Michigan regulators designed to track and measure water use and protect local aquifers. If it appears that proposed local uses put dangerous stress on local water supplies, the proposed withdrawal request is denied.


Mark Green joined API after a career in newspaper journalism, including 16 years as national editorial writer for The Oklahoman in the paper’s Washington bureau. Mark also was a reporter, copy editor and sports editor. He earned his journalism degree from the University of Oklahoma and master’s in journalism and public affairs from American University. He and his wife Pamela live in Occoquan, Va., where they enjoy their four grandchildren.