Griffin: Fracking is safe; why not embrace it?

John Griffin

A five-year, multi-million dollar Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) study confirms what 65 years of experience already tell us: hydraulic fracturing is safe.

Released in June, the study concluded that fracking has not led to widespread, systemic impacts on drinking water.

It’s not the first time the EPA has set the record straight about fracking.

In a 2011 congressional hearing, then-administrator Lisa Jackson made headlines by stating, “I’m not aware of any proven case where the fracking process itself has affected water.”

The study may not be new information, but its significance was not lost on the nation’s editorial boards. The Washington Post’s assessment that “the arguments for fracking bans continue to look very weak” is consistent with the reaction in multiple newsrooms across the nation.

Michigan voters should take note now that fracking opponents have launched a third petition drive to place a measure on the statewide ballot to ban hydraulic fracturing and other processes used in the production of oil and gas.

If passed, most if not all drilling would cease in Michigan, with devastating impacts on our economy and potentially much higher energy prices.

It’s the wrong move for a state that has hydraulic fracturing to thank for some major economic benefits.

In Michigan, 30,000 jobs are directly related to oil and gas production while 182,000 jobs are supported by oil and natural gas.

The availability of affordable shale energy unlocked by fracking has spurred a manufacturing renaissance that projections indicate will support nearly 400,000 manufacturing jobs this year, or 3.2 percent of all manufacturing jobs in the nation.

We’re also seeing significant savings on electricity and heating costs.

Consumers in Michigan benefit year-round from affordable natural gas prices due to ample supply from shale gas formations, according to a report from the Michigan Public Service Commission.

Our public elementary and secondary school districts saved approximately 14.9 percent, or $49 million, on energy during the 2012-2013 fiscal year – enough to employ 539 teachers.

Michigan’s economy can’t afford to lose all that. Especially when the evidence so clearly illustrates that hydraulic fracturing is being conducted safely under the oversight of strong state regulations.

A 2014 report from the Groundwater Protection Council documented “continuous and significant regulatory improvement by state oil and gas agencies across the county” and concluded “the risk of fracture fluid intrusion into groundwater from the hydraulic fracturing of deeper conventional and unconventional oil and gas zones can be considered very low.”

Our experience in Michigan bears that out. The Michigan DEQ reports over 12,000 wells have been hydraulically fractured in Michigan with no cases of water contamination.

Michiganians understand the importance of energy to our economy.

In a 2014 poll, 91 percent of Michigan voters said that increased production of domestic oil and natural gas resources could lead to more jobs in the U.S.

That’s true.

A new study from Wood Mackenzie found that pro-energy policies could add 2.3 million jobs to the economy by 2035 while anti-energy policies – including duplicative new federal fracking regulations – could result in 830,000 fewer jobs.

Hydraulic fracturing is the foundation of the American energy resurgence, a key engine for Michigan’s economy.

If discussions about fracking in Michigan are based on the facts, there’s no question voters will reject fracking bans yet again.

John Griffin is executive director of Associated Petroleum Industries of Michigan, a state office of American Petroleum Institute.