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Michigan’s Fracking Industry Initiates Debate Over Radioactive Waste

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New rules from the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) regarding hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, in the southeast part of the state have divided many of the state’s residents.

According to a February 10 Royal Oak Patch article, the DEQ’s new rules require drilling companies to give advance notice of upcoming exploration projects to nearby residents. In addition, the rules mandate additional safety precautions for fracking and well exploration in the Detroit metropolitan area.

Fracking, a method of extracting oil and gas from shale deposits with blasts of high-pressure water mixtures, is currently responsible for about 43% of oil production and 67% of natural gas production throughout the United States. However, many environmental groups oppose fracking due to its ability to release harmful chemicals and pollutants into the environment and water supply, among other things.

The DEQ’s rules, which are only effective in counties that have populations of at least 750,000, have already spurred protests from activist groups and residents who claim the rules don’t do enough to protect the environment or public health.

One of these activist groups, Citizens Against Residential Drilling, claims the rules largely failed homeowners who live near fracking exploration sites, as they don’t make any provisions for residential zoning or other setbacks.

The radioactive waste that fracking releases into the environment is another point of contention. According to the Detroit Free Press, Southeast Michigan’s landfills have recently become home to low-level radioactive waste generated by fracking projects across the country.

“Southeast Michigan is the new ground zero for radioactive frack waste,” LuAnne Kozma, a campaign director at the Committee to Ban Fracking in Michigan, said.

In response to these protests, DEQ officials have said their hands are largely tied; Michigan state law prohibits local laws from banning oil and gas drilling operations, the Royal Oak Patch reports.

“Drilling is specifically protected by law from local bans,” Brad Wurfel, spokesman for the DEQ, said in a statement. “In that context, we’ve done a lot of good work toward addressing the issues and trying to make sure everyone’s interest is addressed.”

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