Monday, January 27, 2014

Statement from Sierra Club On Proposed Oil Industry Sweetheart Bills

 Monday, January 27, 2014                 

Statement from Sierra Club On Proposed Oil Industry Sweetheart Bills
Giant Tax Breaks, Eminent Domain Privileges Considered Tuesday By House Panel

LANSING--Proposals before a legislative panel Tuesday that would give oil and gas companies new powers to construct pipelines on private property over the objections of Michigan landowners--and give new tax breaks to the industry--were strongly opposed today by the Sierra Club Michigan Chapter, which issued the following statement from State Director Anne Woiwode:

On Tuesday the state House Energy and Technology Committee will hear testimony for the first time on House Bills 4885, 5255 and 5254.   House Bill 4885 would reduce state revenues from oil and gas development by dramatically reducing the so-called severance tax on gas and oil enhanced recovery drilling, including the controversial fracking process. Under the proposed legislation, oil and gas companies would get a 50% break on the oil severance tax, from the current 6.6% to 3.3% while gas drilling taxes would be reduced by 40%, from 5% to 3%.  This proposed handout to the oil and gas industry not only gives them an unneeded tax break, but encourages drilling activities that threaten our Great Lakes system, putting our waters at risk.  We believe fracking is too risky to continue in Michigan and should be stopped.  Giving tax breaks to the oil industry to encourage more fracking is the last thing Michigan’s elected officials should be considering.  Instead, Michigan lawmakers should take up legislation introduced last year that would strengthen weak environmental protections for fracking and invest more money in environmental monitoring of our water and air and other protections to safeguard human health and our natural resources.

Moreover, House Bills 5254 and 5255 pose an alarming new threat for all local Michigan residents who are facing aggressive oil, gas and related pipeline construction in their communities.   Sierra Club strongly opposes giving new eminent domain authority to private oil and gas companies at the expense of the rights of private property owners and the public.  We call on lawmakers to reject both bills. The proposed legislation would also restrict the amount of information pipeline companies would have to release to the public. The recent expansion of oil and tar sands pipelines in Michigan has led to many private landowners witnessing pipeline construction within a few yards of their homes or businesses.  Giving oil and gas companies more ability to take lands for the transportation of fossil fuels and pipeline development is the wrong decision for Michigan, for clean water, and for property owners.

The Sierra Club is the nation’s largest grassroots environmental organization, with over 150,000 members and supporters in Michigan. 

The legislature continues to go in the wrong direction.  Please write your Senator (Caswell) and Representative (Jenkins or Shirkey) and ask them to oppose these bills.

Saturday, January 11, 2014

So, what should be done? What can be done?

by Pam Taylor

My thoughts are below, as a descendant of five generations of Lenawee County farmers, and after spending many hours testing water and air around CAFOs with ECCSCM.  This also gave me the opportunity to observe effects of the oil well drilling process here in the area.   Once you start to carefully watch the patterns in water, soil, and air, you start to notice many things.
I'm going to leave the big questions (sustainable energy options, "feed the world", humane animal treatment) out of this, and just focus on a few things.
Obviously, once Big Pollution is here, there are fewer options. But elections are important. And so is protection for citizens.

  1. Elect officials who are able to see beyond the short term, and who see beyond $$$$. Balance is important. Yes, jobs are important. Good jobs, with decent pay and benefits, and that don't require selling out life's basic needs like water and air. Once you start allowing extractive industries, you are on a slippery slope that is not going to get any better, ever.
  2. Here is Michigan's law regarding oil/well drilling:

    Act 110 of 2006, 125.3205 Ordinance subject to MCL 460.561 to 460.575; regulation or control of oil or gas wells; prohibition.
    Sec. 205. (1) An ordinance adopted under this act is subject to the electric transmission line certification act, 1995 PA 30, MCL 460.561 to 460.575.
    (2) A county or township shall not regulate or control the drilling, completion, or operation of oil or gas wells or other wells drilled for oil or gas exploration purposes and shall not have jurisdiction with reference to the issuance of permits for the location, drilling, completion, operation, or abandonment of such wells.
    History: 2006, Act 110, Eff. July 1, 2006.

    Vote for people in local and state-level offices who will repeal this, or at the very minimum, who will change it. Oil/gas environmental groups need to challenge this in court - it has been done successfully. It is ridiculous to put such a burden on local governments. At the very least, at the Federal level, overturn the "Halliburton rule", and, locally, the name and every chemical and substance used in well drilling should be easily and quickly available for each individual well.
    Also, this statute says nothing about cities and/or villages. Elect folks with some common sense, who don't have dollar signs in their eyes, and can fairly weigh the positives vs. the negatives.

  3. Require much higher performance bonds (contingency money that has to be put aside in case there are "incidents" or road damage, etc.) for potential polluters like CAFOs and oil/gas drillers. On the local level, require an additional operating fee or tax (to come from the oil/gas well or CAFO owner profits) to cover Nos. 4, 5, and 6 below. I'm not sure, but I think that all government entities (including counties and townships) could do this, so why aren't local governments looking into this? This is something that local people have been requesting for some time.
  4. Require polluters such as CAFOs and oil/gas well drillers to set up continuous air quality and water monitoring, including monitoring drinking water wells in key areas. Make them pay for independent labs to do the tests. Results should be available to the public at all times.
  5. Eliminate self-reporting of required periodic tests (field tests for nutrient application and soil for CAFOs, and around oil/gas well sites before/after drilling) and make sure that these required tests are done by independent labs, that the results are kept in a State database which is always accessible to all, and there are punitive fines and consequences for those who fail to do this - including closure of the well or CAFO.
  6. Set up a local, immediate, emergency response system for spills/accidents/incidents. (Not PEAS!!!)   Make sure all chemicals and substances are known and that lists of these easily available to the public at all times.
  7. Elect officials who support "polluter pay" laws. The transferring of costs for damages caused by businesses to taxpayers needs to stop. The harm outweighs the benefits of jobs, jobs, jobs.
  8. Michigan's Right to Farm law, the MDEQ, MDARD, MDNR, and the entire EQIP (federal subsidy money available for farm manure management, among other things) program including the makeup of the NRCS in Michigan, needs to be overhauled, and there needs to be honest oversight of how this money is used. Elect officials who have the courage to do this.
  9. Support sustainable farmers, and farmers' markets. There are many in Lenawee County, and they do a wonderful job. Use tax money to help these farm businesses by electing officials who will work to change the subsidy process to help them, instead of promoting more pollution. Help them set up food hubs and other new ventures. Here in Lenawee, we have an over-abundance of fantastic, local, good food. We have an abundance of folks who could use this fantastic, local, good food - instead they are forced by income level to buy crappy products at the cheapest possible prices. What can local government and agencies do to bring these two groups together to make sure that this food is available when, where, in the right packaging, and at the right price for all?

 I do realize this would require a major shift in thinking away from 100% $$$$$ now, now, now. And there are lots of larger issues regarding sustainable energy, sustainable food, and the world we live in - those are conversations that need to take place.

But I can dream, can't I?

Pam Taylor

Work for something because it is good, not just because it stands a chance to succeed. -- Vaclav Havel

Occupy The Hollers: Seeking Truth in Shale Gas Advertising

The WV grassroots group Occupy The Hollers ( posted the below video on YouTube that clarifies the false advertisement and lies in the continuously broadcasted TV commercials of the oil and gas industry:

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Update to Gas Flaring as Seen from Space

The light emitted by the flaring "waste" gas on the Bakken oil fields lights up the night as a major metropolis, where several million people live.

My Request to Monitor the Flare on Witt Farm

After finding out how far the gas and volatile pollution of flares reach, I asked the City of Adrian (in person of its new mayor Jim Berryman), the Lenawee County Health Department in person of Patsy Bourgeois and Martha Hall, and by contacting the DEQ in person of Kristine Shimko and Louis Schineman, what they are going to do about it:

November 27, 2013
Dear Jim, Patricia, and Kristine,

Please let us get together to figure out a way to monitor the health risks posed by the massive flare on Witt Farm that is still going strong. Please consult my latest blog post at:

and the attached annotated risk assessment by the internationally known Canadian scientist James Argo.

Feel free to consult with me any time - I am looking forward to a meeting!

Sincerely, Tom
Thomas Wassmer, Ph.D.
Assistant Professor of Biology
Siena Heights University
1247 E. Siena Heights Dr.
Adrian, MI 49221

As expected, one institution looks at the other for being responsible and in charge of doing something. From the city I only have a statement of intention by mayor Jim Berryman that the city should do something, the County Heath Department asked the DEQ if they could monitor the flare, and they denied this request. I therefore wrote the below letter to the County Heath Department today. In copy to: Mayor Jim Berryman, the City of Adrian Comissioners, and John Mulcahy from the Daily Telegram

January 7, 2014
Martha and Pat,

That was expected as they ignore the risk - and do not have jurisdiction - nor the money to force prudent and well needed safety, health and environmental risk monitoring on the industry. Now the question is, will the county and the city also ignore what should be done to safeguard the citizens of Adrian, Adrian Township and Raisin Township?

Thomas Wassmer, Ph.D.
Assistant Professor of Biology
Siena Heights University
1247 E. Siena Heights Dr.
Adrian, MI 49221