In a prior post we highlighted the recent energy boom in the U.S. Like elsewhere, the increased attention to energy production has been felt here in Michigan but on a smaller scale. Earlier in 2013, Encana (a Canadian company) announced that it was considering developing at least 500 new wells in the state. Current economics, however, create some doubt as to whether gas production in Michigan will increase more than current levels.

Michigan residents are paying close attention to gas and pipeline transport issues in the region because of our water resources.

What is the main issue in Michigan? Two words – groundwater withdrawal. Many Michigan rivers and streams are fed by groundwater. With fracking pads using up to 20 million gallons of water, the concern is fracking near waterbodies will result in reducing water levels to a point that fishing and boating will be adversely impacted. Recently, because of local opposition to oil and gas leases along the “Holy Waters” section of the AuSable River, the DNR designated those leases as non-production leases. In addition, the sensitivity of this issue for Michigan residents has prompted the MDEQ to re-evaluate its fracking rules.

Michigan residents are also concerned about oil transport through the Great Lakes region. Companies like Enbridge are building or expanding pipelines in Michigan to handle the increased production of oil elsewhere. There are also plans to build an oil shipping port in Superior Wisconsin so that up to 35,000 barrels (about 1.4 million gallons) of oil from Alberta’s tar sands can be shipped to refineries around the Great Lakes.

As many recall, in 2010 one of Enbridge’s oil pipelines near Marshall, Michigan ruptured spilling over one million gallons (about 24,000 barrels) of diluted bitumen (“dilbit”) oil into the Kalamazoo River – a spill that Enbridge is still cleaning up. While Michigan residents understand the need for oil, they are not interested in a repeat of the Enbridge spill – especially one that would involve one of the Great Lakes.

Although water is abundant around the Great Lakes, it is used by many for recreational purposes in addition to industrial/commercial uses. As a result, there is significant interest and demands for it to be managed so that it can be enjoyed by the greatest number of people.