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DEQ Proposes Updated Fracking Rules

October 28th, 2013

Last week, the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality proposed new regulations for high-volume hydraulic fracturing, often called “fracking.” The rules formalize some existing practices that some advocates have lobbied for in the past few years.

Hydraulic fracturing is the process of using a mixture of water, sand, and chemicals to force open fissures in shale rock and allow trapped oil or gas to escape into the well shaft and up to the well head where it can be stored and transported. Existing Michigan regulations require cement casing to surround the well. This method allows producers to access oil and gas inaccessible using conventional drilling.

The proposed rules would require hydrofracturing operations using over 100,000 gallons of fluid to use Michigan’s water withdrawal assessment tool, disclose chemicals used in fracking fluid on an online registry, and conduct baseline water quality testing.

DEQ policy already requires use of the water withdrawal assessment tool, which uses computer modeling to predict the impact a proposed water withdrawal would have on nearby water resource volumes. The proposed regulation would formalize existing department policy to deny permits which would cause an adverse impact to a nearby river or stream.

The rules would also require companies to disclose chemicals used in hydrofracturing fluid on the website FracFocus. Chemical family names would have to be disclosed if the exact recipes are protected by trade secrets.

Companies would also be required to conduct baseline water quality testing, which some companies do voluntarily at present. This allows companies and residents to determine whether any changes in water quality after a drilling operation are attributable to the operation.

Sales and royalties from the state’s oil and gas rights fund the Michigan Natural Resources Trust Fund and the Michigan State Parks Endowment Fund.

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