Fracking Debates Continue in New York and Michigan

Photo: Dale G. Young / The Detroit News

Photo: Dale G. Young / The Detroit News

After last month’s vote to ban fracking in Denton, Texas, there was speculation the result could trigger a domino effect around the country. While the issue has been addressed in multiple regions, the results have been mixed across the board.

In New York this week, Governor Andrew Cuomo’s administration announced a state-wide ban on fracking, citing a recently published public health study by the New York State Department of Health that proposes a link between fracking and various health concerns, community impacts, and even earthquakes. Much of southern New York sits atop the Marcellus Formation, the largest shale plate in the United States. The plate primarily extends from parts of West Virginia up through Ohio, Pennsylvania, and New York, and is one of several such formations across the country that has been tapped for their vast natural gas reserves. 

Opponents of the ban have voiced their disappointment in the decision, referencing the lost economic opportunities that could be created by the industry in the state, as seen across state lines in Pennsylvania. Executive Director of the New York State Petroleum Council reflected on the decision Thursday, “Our citizens in the Southern Tier have had to watch their neighbors and friends across the border in Pennsylvania thriving economically. It’s like they were a kid in a candy store window, looking through the window, and not able to touch that opportunity.”

On the other side of the spectrum, the oil and gas industry scored a victory last Thursday in Lansing, Michigan as the Michigan State Senate voted on Senate Bills 1076 and 1026. These bills, sponsored by Senator Jack Brandenburg of Harrison Township, would have put the power of limiting OG drilling into the hands of local township governments with populations of 70,000 or more, matching the authority that cities in the state have. These bills came about after some of Brandenburg’s constituents complained about drilling sites encroaching on residential properties in the region, echoing the circumstances in Denton. One particular well that spurred much of the uproar is located in Shelby Township, erected less than 500 feet from a residential neighborhood. When addressing the Senate, Brandenburg implored, “I would ask each and every one of you to put yourselves in the place of those residents in Shelby Township.”

Despite his best efforts, the bills were defeated handily, with Bill 1026 only garnering 10 votes in the affirmative.

Looking toward 2015, there will most assuredly be more debate on the subject of fracking, and only time will tell what each state, town, or region decides.

Hannah Weaver
GIS Analyst

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