There is significant momentum behind natural gas extraction efforts in the United States, with many states embracing it as an opportunity to create jobs and foster economic strength. Natural gas extraction has also been championed as a way to move toward energy independence and a cleaner energy supply. First demonstrated in the 1940’s, hydraulic fracturing is now the predominant method used to extract natural gas in the U.S.
As domestic natural gas production has accelerated in recent years, however, the hydraulic fracturing process has come under increased public scrutiny. Concerns include perceived lack of transparency, chemical contamination, new techniques, water availability, waste water disposal, and impacts on ecosystems, human health, and surrounding communities. Consequently, numerous hydraulic fracturing studies are being undertaken by government agencies, industry, non-governmental organizations, and academia, yet none have a particular focus on Michigan.
In response to that gap, a unique partnership involving several University of Michigan units, industry representatives, environmental organizations, and state regulators has formed to examine the multiple aspects of this gas extraction technique, with an emphasis on impacts and issues related to the State of Michigan. Using an engaged problem-solving approach called integrated assessment, the project will first compile technical reports on key topics then focus on an analysis of policy options for Michigan.
Michigan Governor Rick Snyder is in support of our collaborative study and commented about it in an energy and environmental policy blueprint released on November 28, 2012.
"It’s important that our citizens understand what fracking is really all about," Gov. Snyder says. "That’s why the University of Michigan’s Graham Sustainability Institute is undertaking an evaluation of fracking. At their invitation, the state is participating in the steering committee for this effort alongside environmental and industry groups. At the end of the process, the public will have well-reasoned, objective explanations of what this technology is and is not. We will also have a Michigan-focused evaluation of the various implications of fracking. This is a great example of collaboration and a public university serving the needs of the state, and I am looking forward to seeing the results."
U-M units involved in the project are:
- Graham Environmental Sustainability Institute
- Risk Science Center
- Energy Institute
- Erb Institute for Global Sustainable Enterprise
These U-M units along with representatives from the Office of Governor Rick Snyder, the Department of Environmental Quality, the Michigan Oil and Gas Association, the Michigan Environmental Council, and the Tip of the Mitt Watershed Council form a steering committee to guide the initiative. Work started in the fall of 2012 with the formation of the following seven technical report teams:
- TECHNOLOGY: Johannes Schwank, Chemical Engineering; John Wilson, Energy Institute
- GEOLOGY/HYDROGEOLOGY: Brian Ellis, Civil and Environmental Engineering
- ENVIRONMENT/ECOLOGY: Allen Burton, School of Natural Resources & Environment (SNRE); Knute Nadelhoffer, Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology
- HUMAN HEALTH: Nil Basu, School of Public Health
- POLICY/LAW: Sara Gosman, Law School
- ECONOMICS: Roland Zullo, Institute for Research on Labor, Employment, & the Economy
- SOCIAL/PUBLIC PERCEPTION: Andy Hoffman and Kim Wolske, Erb Institute for Global Sustainable Enterprise
If you would like to submit a general comment on this project or your contact information in order to receive announcements regarding the project and future meetings, please use the link to the form below.
- John Callewaert discusses the Technical Report release with Dr. Kirk Heinze of Greening the Great Lakes 9/2013 (Click to listen)
- Overview and Discussion Event on March 5, 2013: Video and Presentation (PDF)
- Question & Answer Sheet
- Project Steering Committee Members
- U-M Press Release Announcing "Hydraulic Fracturing in Michigan" Integrated Assessment
- VIDEO: Assistant Professor Brian Ellis on the Impacts of Hydraulic Fracturing (NOTE: This video provides an overview of hydraulic fracturing but is not specific to practice and conditions in Michigan.)
- Drew Horning Discusses the Study on WEMU 88.1 (Click to Listen)
- Gov. Rick Snyder Approves of Fracking, If Done Right (Detroit Free Press)
- DEQ Map of High Volume Hydraulic Fracturing: Applications & Permits in Michigan (Lower Peninsula)
- U-M Graham Sustainability Institute Assessing Fracking in Michigan (MLive Article & Radio Interview, 9/20/13)