Chemical industry leaders are promoting natural gas as a way to boost manufacturing and job creation.
They joined a couple of state lawmakers in pushing for policies that allow for shale gas extraction, including horizontal hydraulic fracturing (fracking), a controversial method of accessing natural gas.
There has been an increase in companies buying natural gas leases in Michigan. A House subcommittee on natural gas this year called for the state to seek oil and gas leases on 5.3 million acres of state-controlled land.
Representatives from Midland-based Dow Chemical Co., Detroit-based PVS Chemicals and other firms discussed the importance of natural gas during the American Chemistry Council’s energy policy forum in Lansing on Wednesday.
“At the national level, natural gas is fueling an American manufacturing renaissance,” said Seth Roberts, Dow’s director of energy and climate change policy.
Dow uses natural gas for energy as well as a feedstock to produce the building blocks for various chemicals and plastic products.
When natural gas prices are low, Dow and other companies respond by making investments and adding jobs, Roberts said.
State Reps. Charles Brunner, D-Bay City and Aric Nesbitt, R-Lawton, echoed the industry leaders’ enthusiasm for natural gas.
Brunner acknowledged environmental concerns about the chemicals injected into the ground during fracking, but said he’s sure it can be done safely in Michigan given the state’s environmental regulations.
“I’m excited about natural gas exploration and doing whatever we can to make it happen,” Brunner said.
Brunner’s views differ from some of his Democratic colleagues in the House, who in April called for a moratorium on issuing permits for certain large-scale fracking operations until the state can study its impact on the environment and drinking water.
Rep. Lisa Brown, D-West Bloomfield, introduced HB 5565, which requires companies to disclose the chemicals used in fracking before they can receive a permit, allows for public comment before a permit decision and requires companies to use the least harmful chemicals possible.
“Parents shouldn’t have to second guess the quality of their water,” she said in April.
A ballot proposal to ban fracking failed to get enough signatures to appear on the November ballot.
Gov. Rick Snyder in April said the state has been fracking for natural gas for decades, but hasn’t had environmental problems because of more strict regulations than are found in many other states.
Valerie Brader, Snyder’s deputy legal counsel and senior policy advisor, spoke at the forum on Wednesday but did not talk about specific methods for extracting shale gas.
She highlighted Michigan’s opportunities — the state not only has natural gas resources but its underground geological features have more than 10 percent of the nation’s natural gas storage capacity.
“Being able to have a lot of reliable storage nearby to facilities with an infrastructure and a pipeline infrastructure that supports that, is a real asset that Michigan has to build on and shouldn’t be shy about promoting,” Brader said.
Snyder recently filed a protest against Trunkline Gas Co.’s plans to abandon a main natural gas transmission line serving Michigan.
“Our state, and the nation, needs more natural gas infrastructure, not less, and we must have a comprehensive energy policy that supports excellent reliability and adaptability at a competitive rate, while protecting the environment,” he said in a statement.
Article written by: Melissa Anders at Mlive. Originally published on Wed., Sept. 12, 2012