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.
In a March 2015 special message to Michigan's Legislature and citizens about the state's overall energy policy, Governor Snyder cited the IA's usefulness for evaluating policy options for hydraulic fracturing:
"The [revised administrative] rules that took effect this week regarding high volume hydraulic fracturing were developed while key decision-makers from the state were participating in the first phase of an integrated assessment by the University of Michigan's Graham Institute. That helped us see an opportunity to strengthen our protection of water and give the public more information…The Graham Institute is now well into the second phase of its integrated assessment and the State will be among the many entities giving public comment to the researchers. The State looks forward to reading the final assessment and considering whether further rule changes or other improvements should be proposed."
U-M units involved in the project are:
- Graham Sustainability Institute
- Energy Institute
- Erb Institute for Global Sustainable Enterprise
- Risk Science Center
In addition, representatives from the Office of Governor Rick Snyder, the Department of Environmental Quality, the Michigan Oil and Gas Association, the Michigan Department of Natural Resources, the Michigan Environmental Council, and the Tip of the Mitt Watershed Council form an advisory committee to provide input to the project.
Work started in the fall of 2012, and seven technical reports focused on key topics related to hydraulic fracturing in Michigan were developed by U-M researchers and made public in September 2013. These reports were prepared to provide decision makers and stakeholders a solid foundation of information on the topic.
Drawing upon the information provided by the technical reports, additional peer-reviewed materials, and stakeholder input received following the release of the technical reports, the Integrated Assessment (IA) Draft Report focuses on an analysis of strategic policy options to address the guiding question:
What are the best environmental, economic, social, and technological approaches for managing hydraulic fracturing in the State of Michigan?
Refer to the Integrated Assessment Plan for more information. A draft version of the IA Report can be accessed throught the link above. The Final IA Report is scheduled to be released in late summer/early fall 2015.
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 general comment form.
- INTERVIEW: John Callewaert discusses the Draft Report with Kirk Heinze on Greening of the Great Lakes (article and recording)
- DEQ Map of High Volume Hydraulic Fracturing: Applications & Permits in Michigan (Lower Peninsula) (dated 5/28/2015)
- DEQ High Volume Hydraulic Fracturing Water Use Tracking - 2008 to Present (dated June 2015)
- ARTICLE: Environmental Toxicology and Chemistry article Hydraulic "Fracking": Are Surface Water Impacts An Ecological Concern? by professors Burton, Basu, Ellis, and Knadelhoffer, who have contributed to this project, and others
- ARTICLE: Michigan Journal of Sustainability article Clearing the Waters of the Fracking Debate by Assistant Professor Brian Ellis and others
- 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.)
- The CLOSUP Energy & Environmental Policy Initiative Fracking Project