Editorial: Just say no to fracking petition

The Detroit News

In a few weeks, signature gatherers will begin showing up in shopping mall parking lots and door-to-door in Michigan neighborhoods, trying to convince state citizens to cut themselves off from a cheap, plentiful and cleaner source of energy.

The Committee to Ban Fracking in Michigan is making a third stab at getting either the Legislature or voters to end the practice of horizontal hydraulic fracturing to extract oil and natural gas reserves. It should be third strike and out.

This time, the committee is trying for a citizens initiative. That means if it can get enough signatures, the measure goes to the Legislature for an up or down vote. If it's approved by lawmakers, it becomes law and is not subject to gubernatorial veto. If no vote is taken, or the measure is defeated, the proposal goes automatically on the ballot.

Michigan's Republican-controlled Legislature is not likely to approve the ban. And for that matter, voters aren't, either. Michigan voters have a good track record of rejecting radical ballot proposals, particularly ones that would restrict economic growth.

But the best way to make sure this proposal has no chance of becoming law is to deny it the signatures it needs to get to the Legislature. Just don't sign the petitions.

Fracking bans have been adopted by other states, most notably New York, and are the product of environmental hysteria rather than sound policy.

Fracking is safe. Forms of the process, which uses water and chemical mixtures to free gas and oil trapped in shale, have been employed in Michigan for decades, without a serious incident.

Advances in fracking technology have made the practice even safer. And Michigan has adopted new regulations to control methane emissions and protect groundwater.

States such as North Dakota and Pennsylvania where fracking has flourished have experienced a jobs boom. Michigan has significant natural gas reserves, and fracking will make them more lucrative to extract.

There are other reasons to keep the fracking option in Michigan — protecting the environment and assuring a reliable energy supply.

With the federal government ordering the shut-down of coal-fired electricity plants, Michigan stands to lose at least a quarter of its power production capacity. Natural gas is the only cost effective and viable option for replacing base-load coal plants.

Natural gas also burns cleaner than coal, cutting carbon and other emissions.

Fracking has revived the oil and gas industry in the United States and has made the nation again one of the top energy producers. At the same time, the new supplies have sent prices falling, resulting in lower fuel bills.

Michigan would be foolish to cut itself off from this revolutionary technology.

The petition drive to ban fracking seeks to address a problem that doesn't exist. Fracking is not harming the environment in Michigan. Rather, it has the potential to make the state's air cleaner, while creating jobs and economic growth.

Don't sign these misguided petitions.