Fracking Forum Coming to Ferndale April 23

Fracking Forum Coming to Ferndale April 23

By, Crystal A. Proxmire

As the State of Michigan auctions off drilling rights throughout the state, concern over potential fracking operations is hitting home for SE Michigan residents.  Former Oakland County Commissioners Jim Nash and Craig Covey are hosting forums around Oakland County to discuss the controversial drilling method.  Nash left his Commission seat to run for Water Resource Commissioner for the County. Covey, who lost in a re-election bid after redistricting eliminated seats on the board, now works as a special assistant to Nash.

Together they are educating the public on fracking, a method of mining where water mixed with sand and chemicals is pumped into the ground, causing it to crack and releasing natural gas.  Basic fracking seems to have been around in Michigan since at least the 1940s, but in recent years f115adFUNDINGcompanies have taken it further – with deeper wells, horizontal wells, and chemical additives to the water used in the process.

The chemicals are one of the main concerns of fracking opponents, because their addition means that the water is no longer safe and usable in the ecosystem.  Fracking waste-water must be stored in specialized deep wells where it can never be used again.  The chemicals, and the risks associated with them, are unknown thanks to special federal law that labels them as trade secrets.

The Oakland County Water Resources Commission held a town hall in West Bloomfield Township in March, and another is scheduled for April 23 from 6-8pm at Ferndale City Hall, 300 E. 9 Mile Road.  County Commissioner Helaine Zack and the Ferndale Environmental Sustainability Commission are hosting the event along with Nash’s office.  Experts on both sides of the fracking debate will be on hand to discuss the issue.

Over 100 people attended the West Bloomfield Township forum, where seasoned mining professional and Director of the Michigan Groundwater Association Joe Curry talked aboutJudyPalmer01 the risks and environmental impact of fracking.

Hal Fitch of the DEQ’s (Department of Environmental Quality) Oil Gas and Minerals division was on hand to explain what fracking is and how his department is tasked with regulating it.  He defended the practice of fracking, stating “We have to balance the use of our resources along with protection.  You can’t just shut everything down to preserve a pristine environment.”

Videos of Fitch and Curry speaking in West Bloomfield Township can be found at

Recent reports from other states about oil pipeline spills and contaminated water supplies have residents organizing against more drilling, while Michigan has been auctioning off rights for as low as $12 an acre including the use of water on the properties up to the state’s limits.  West Bloomfield HowesLocationTownship officials voted on a fracking moratorium, but court cases will determine if they have the right to ban fracking on private land or not.

“Companies have been going to the townships and are trying to buy up land and drilling rights from individuals.  The goal is to get as many properties near each other as possible because you need to have a 1,000 foot perimeter around where you drill.  Landowners get a small fee per month, but what they don’t realize is that drilling is a 24 hour a day operation. There’s noise from the drills, air pollution, trucks carrying gas and poisonous fracking water, all near people’s homes and the lakes,” Covey said.  “Most people live here for a reason, because it is clean, quiet and relatively safe.”

He pointed out that companies have no responsibility for the deterioration of the roads from increased trucking, and no obligation to replace the water they consume.  Once fracking chemicals have been added to water, it can never be treated and used again.  The contaminated water must be stored in deep wells and is permanently removed from the water cycle.

When asked what people can do who want to prevent fracking in their communities, Covey gave three steps:  “1. Know what is happening.  2.  Take a position. And 3.  Raise heck with local andNew Harvest Homes NHH state political leaders – the Governor, State Reps, State Senators, County Commissioners, and local elected officials.  If enough people take a stand on something they sometimes listen.”

Groups have also formed across the state to fight fracking, including Ban Michigan Fracking, Committee to Ban Fracking in Michigan and Don’t Frack Michigan.  Established organizations like Sierra Club, Clean Water Action and Common Cause also are weighing in against the practice.

While serving as County Commissioners, Nash and Covey co-introduced a resolution to place a moratorium on fracking in Oakland County, but the resolution was never allowed to make it out of committee.

The town hall for Ferndale is April 23 from 6-8pm at Ferndale City Hall, 300 E. 9 Mile Road.  Future town halls will be held around Oakland County.  For more information visit the Oakland County Water Resource Commission’s website at

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