Fracking and Michigan's water supply

Updated: Thursday, May 15, 2014
Fracking and Michigan
KALAMAZOO, Mich. (NEWSCHANNEL 3) - New rules approved in Lansing a few weeks ago are designed to soothe the concerns of people worried about the effects that fracking for oil and gas will have on our environment.

Tonight, in Tom's Corner, Tom Van Howe says it's nice to have more information about what is being done in our state and elsewhere, but it doesn't make the effect on the environment any less scary.

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In fact...the new rules don't do a whole lot more than confirm what critics already thought was happening.

Just to get it out of the way, and most of you already know this: fracking is short for "hydraulic fracturing." It's the process of extracting oil and gas from miles deep in the earth by injecting a high-pressure mix of water and chemicals to fracture the rock and free it up.

It sounds ho-hum, but it's a pretty ruthless undertaking.

It takes unbelievable amounts of fresh water to get the job done. Water that can never be used again for human consumption.

Here's an example: a well drilled in Kalkaska County a year-and-a-half ago used 21 million gallons of it. When it comes time to extend the well, they'll use even more.

21 million gallons! One well.

And while Pennsylvania has pretty much been the poster state for the fracking industry, Michigan is now in the cross hairs.

And why not? We're a peninsula. We've got water!

In Barry County three years ago, oil companies signed leases for 81 wells.

Within a year that number had doubled.

There are a number of them scheduled to go in Ionia County.

According to the Detroit Free Press, there are tens of thousands of property owners across the state who have signed leases.

And for every well drilled, millions upon millions of gallons of fresh water used, contaminated, and pumped underground for safe keeping.

One fracking critic, Joe Curry, a water driller from Holly, told the Free Press that the fracking process risks contaminating underground water sources, creates air pollution from the chemicals used,  and converts almost incomprehensible amounts of fresh water into toxic waste.

How much water? Well, from January of 2011 to August of 2012--a 20-month stretch--the United States lost 66 billion gallons of water to frack 35,000 wells.

That's enough to provide all the water needed annually for 40 to 80 cities with populations of 50-thousand people.

Much of it in already water-stressed areas--and none of it ever to be used by a human being again.

And we're just getting started.

Guess who uses more water: Farmers? Or frackers? And we're just getting started.

I know we need to assert oil independence. We can't forever rely on oil from politically unstable regions of the world.

I know we have to get to work and take our vacations and wait for deliveries by planes, trucks, and automobiles.

I also know that the oil and gas industry would love to keep things just the way they are. They're making tons of money. And they have tons of clout in every legislative chamber in the country.

But we have simply got to step up our research in how to extract more usable power from reusable sources like the sun, and wind, and waves, and heat from the core of the earth.

If we don't, there will come a time when the lines from the Rime of the Ancient Mariner will take on a whole new meaning: "Water, water everywhere, and not a drop to drink."

In this corner...I'm Tom Van Howe.

Business News

Last Update on November 21, 2014 08:31 GMT

FEDERAL RESERVE-TOO COZY?

WASHINGTON (AP) -- The Federal Reserve says it will review how it oversees the biggest U.S. banks amid criticism that it has grown too close to the financial institutions it is charged with regulating.

The Fed announced the review late Thursday. On Friday, a Senate subcommittee will hold a hearing on whether Fed examiners -- particularly in its New York operation -- have become too cozy with the big banks they oversee.

The central bank said the review will examine whether its decision-makers get the information they need to make good decisions in their inspection and oversight of banks. It also will look at the Fed's internal culture, and whether dissenting views related to oversight are stifled.

The bailout of Wall Street banks during the 2008 financial crisis brought the issue forward.

EUROPE-STIMULUS

FRANKFURT, Germany (AP) -- Japan's return to recession has renewed questions about the effectiveness of its recent monetary stimulus -- and how anything similar would help Europe's struggling economy.

The European Central Bank is edging toward the same kind of large-scale bond purchases that the Bank of Japan has used. Proponents say the measure, typically used as a last resort by central banks, could boost the shaky eurozone recovery by reducing borrowing costs for businesses, households and governments.

Yet Japan's recession underlines the limits of so-called quantitative easing, or QE, which involves pumping newly created money into the economy through bond purchases.

The step may give the eurozone a marginal boost by keeping the euro's exchange rate down, putting a lid on borrowing costs for the foreseeable future and generating some wealth effects.

However, few economists think it will provide a magic solution -- especially if governments like those in France and Italy don't make their economies more business-friendly, and if countries keep trying to reduce debt through austerity cuts.

PORT LABOR

LOS ANGELES (AP) -- Negotiations over a new contract for dockworkers at 29 West Coast ports took an unexpected turn Thursday, as the union insisted on "small table" talks while employers decried the "extended break."

The full teams for the longshoreman's union and the association representing trans-ocean shipping lines and operators of port terminals aren't scheduled to meet again until Dec. 2.

The maritime association called the development a "slowdown tactic" -- a pointed reference to their complaints that dockworkers are deliberately dragging as they load and unload ships.

Public pressure has been mounting to resolve labor strife at ports that handle billions of dollars of imports and exports each day.

A union spokesman said negotiations were going well and the change was a chance to tackle tough issues in small groups.

CHRYSLER-SLOW RECALL

DETROIT (AP) -- The government is telling Chrysler to speed up its recall of 1.5 million older Jeeps with gas tanks that can rupture in a rear collision.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration sent a letter to Chrysler saying that only 3 percent of the Jeeps have been fixed, more than a year after the recall began.

The Jeep Grand Cherokees and Libertys have gas tanks behind the rear axles that can rupture in rear collisions and catch fire. The remedy is to install a trailer hitch to protect the tanks in low-speed collisions. At least 51 people have died in crashes due to the problem.

The letter says Jeep owners have complained about being turned away by dealers for lack of parts.

Chrysler says it's redoubling efforts to get ship parts.

GM-MANAGEMENT CHANGES

DETROIT (AP) -- General Motors is promoting its purchasing chief to be head of quality as part of a management shake-up.

The move comes after all GM brands but Buick performed worse than average in this year's Consumer Reports auto reliability survey.

Quality and customer experience head Alicia Boler-Davis will remain a senior vice president, but will no longer lead quality. She's now in charge of a department that handles GM's interactions with its customers.

Purchasing head Grace Lieblein takes over as vice president of global quality.

Both executives report to CEO Mary Barra.

Cadillac, GMC and Chevrolet all scored below average in the Consumer Reports survey revealed last month. GMC fell 10 places largely due to problems with the new Sierra pickup. Buick was the top brand from a U.S.-based automaker.

SQUARE-WORLDWIDE

LONDON (AP) -- Financial services startup Square is taking aim at cash registers across the globe, making its point-of-sale software available internationally in English, Spanish, French and Japanese.

The company, whose small cubic credit card reader can be used to turn a smartphone or a tablet into a portable sized till, isn't yet offering the distinctively shaped piece of hardware in Europe, CEO Jack Dorsey said at a press event in London on Thursday.

Dorsey, who co-founded Twitter Inc., declined to give a timeline for when the hardware would be available for Square's new international users.

Square says that its app -- available for Android and Apple devices -- now supports 130 currencies.

KOZY SHACK-PUDDING RECALL

ARDEN HILLS, Minn. (AP) -- Pudding maker Kozy Shack Enterprises is recalling some of its puddings because they are not labeled as containing milk.

The voluntary recall involves 4-ounce cups of Foodservice Kozy Shack Simply Well Chocolate Pudding.

The recalled pudding was distributed through foodservice distribution channels and not sold in retail stores.

The product was distributed to 20 states -- Connecticut, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Iowa, Kansas, Louisiana, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Virginia, West Virginia and Wisconsin.

Minnesota-based cooperative Land O'Lakes owns Kozy Shack Enterprises.

HAZARDOUS WASTE-SETTLEMENT

AT&T pays $23.8 M to settle hazardous waste case

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) -- AT&T has agreed to pay California authorities nearly $24 million to settle allegations that it improperly disposed of hazardous waste during a nine-year period.

California Attorney General Kamala Harris said Thursday that the telecommunications giant has also agreed to spend $28 million over the next five years to properly dispose of the waste, which includes batteries, electronic equipment and various gels and liquids. Harris said the investigation began in 2011 when inspectors with the Alameda County District Attorney's office and the California Department of Toxic Substances Control examined trash bins outside about 235 AT&T warehouse and other facilities.

An AT&T spokesman said the company cooperated with the investigation.

Five other telecommunications' companies have disclosed in financial filings with regulators that they are the targets of similar investigations.

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