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Natural Gas Report Drills Into Hazards and Solutions

November 17, 2011

LANSING, Mich. - Natural gas production in Michigan and a few other states gets a top-down look in a new report from the National Wildlife Federation. It verifies that while natural gas is part of the nation's energy future, it is one that needs some guidance in order to protect air, water, public health and wildlife.

Tom Buhr, executive secretary of Michigan Trout Unlimited, says the hydraulic fracturing ("fracking") process used to extract the gas uses millions of gallons of water, and warns that its safeguards are not strong enough to limit pollution.

"The biggest problem I have here is that I haven't seen anything yet that says this water can ever be cleaned enough so I could drink it or use it to grow crops - certainly, I couldn't put it back in my rivers."

The oil and gas industry argues that fracking is safe, since the water is injected miles underground, well below any water sources.

One key finding is that natural gas companies are reluctant to share information about the chemicals used for fracking - although it is known that some compounds are toxic. Buhr says the public needs to know what they are and what is being done to keep toxics out of the way.

"We need look at ways to clean this water in the fracking process, or at least reuse it, so we aren't destroying 3 million to 8 million gallons a crack."

The report calls for federal oversight as well as state oversight, and encourages more public involvement in places where drilling is happening or being considered.

The full report, "No More Drilling in the Dark," is available at www.nwf.org.

Deb Courson Smith, Public News Service - MI