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 advisory 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 Sustainability Institute
- Risk Science Center
- Energy Institute
- Erb Institute for Global Sustainable Enterprise
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.
The next project phase focuses on producing the Integrated Assessment. 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) will focus 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.
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.
- DEQ Map of High Volume Hydraulic Fracturing: Applications & Permits in Michigan (Lower Peninsula)
- 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