An environmental group is calling on Great Lakes states to ban drilling for oil and gas under Lake Erie. The Great Lakes Radio Consortium’s Natalie Walston reports:
An environmental group is calling on Great Lakes states to ban drilling for
oil and gas under Lake Erie. The Great Lakes Radio Consortium’s Natalie
At least four drilling companies have tried to gain access to oil and gas
deposits under Lake Erie since 1998. That’s according to a study by the Ohio
Public Interest Research Group. The group found a significant amount of
cooperation between the Council of Great Lakes Governors in considering
allowing companies access to the lake. Bryan Clark wrote the report for the interest
group. He says there are a number of problems associated with drilling for
oil and gas.
“Drilling operations routinely utilize dangerous toxic chemicals. Many of
these chemicals, such as those found in drilling mud, can cause problems as
diverse as wildlife cancers, developmental disorders, and shortened life
Ohio governor Bob Taft has stated he will sign an executive order banning
drilling under Ohio’s part of Lake Erie. The state of Michigan recently voted to ban
new drilling. Clark says New York, Wisconsin, Illinois, and Indiana need to
consider a drilling ban as well.
For the Great Lakes Radio Consortium, I’m Natalie Walston.
Canadian environmental groups say the American demand for fossil fuels is harming Canada’s environment. The Great Lakes Radio Consortium’s Karen Kelly reports:
Canadian environmental groups say the American demand for fossil fuels is harming
Canada’s environment. The Great Lakes Radio Consortium’s Karen Kelly reports:
Environmentalists say Canada’s oil industry is booming. Natural gas production
increased by 70% over the past decade. And oil production went up by 50%.
Canada is now the single largest supplier of fossil fuels to the United States. John
Bennett of the Sierra Club of Canada says that increase in fuel production and
consumption is harmful for both humans and wildlife.
“What we get is air pollution, 16 thousand premature deaths every year. We also have
huge loss of habitat and biodiversity.”
Environmentalists are especially concerned about a proposed pipeline through the
Canadian arctic. They’re also fighting to maintain a moratorium on drilling off the coast
of British Columbia.
For the Great Lakes Radio Consortium, I’m Karen Kelly.
Congress has passed a measure banning drilling for oil or natural gas in the Great Lakes. The Great Lakes Radio Consortium’s Lester Graham has the details:
Congress has passed a measure banning drilling for oil or natural gas in the Great Lakes. The Great Lakes Radio Consortium’s Lester Graham reports.
The legislation includes a two-year moratorium on new oil and gas drilling in or under the Great Lakes. US Senators Debbie Stabenow, a Democrat from Michigan and Peter Fitzgerald, a Republican from Illinois came up with the plan. They say the measure was needed in order to protect the waters of the Great Lakes from environmental damage. In Michigan, Governor John Engler denounced the measure. Engler is a long-standing supporter of drilling under the lakes for new energy sources. Susan Shafer is the governor’s press secretary.
“We’re concerned about the federal government coming in and telling us that Michigan and other Great Lakes states: ‘This is what you will do; you don’t have a choice on this.’ And, in the past there have been no federal statutes that have governed control over oil or natural gas in the bottomlands of the Great Lakes. And, so, that’s always been governed by state statute.”
Michigan was preparing to issue new drilling permits. Because of term limits, Engler leaves office at the end of next year. The candidates running for governor in Michigan all oppose new drilling permits. For the Great Lakes Radio Consortium, this is Lester Graham.
Before the terrorist attacks on the U.S., environmental groups were often critical of the Bush Administration’s policies. But since September 11th, most of the environmental organizations have erased all traces of criticism of the White House. Some politicians, though, see opportunities to push through energy policies in the name of national security – policies that could damage the environment. The Great Lakes Radio Consortium’s Lester Graham reports:
Before the terrorist attacks on the U.S., environmental groups were often critical of the Bush Administration’s policies. But, since September 11th, most of the environmental organizations have erased all traces of criticism of the White House. Some politicians, though, see opportunities to push through energy policies in the name of national security, policies that could damage the environment. The Great Lakes Radio Consortium’s Lester Graham reports.
If you’d visited the Sierra Club Internet web site before September eleventh, or that of the Natural Resources Defense Council, or any of a dozen or more major environmental groups’ sites, you likely would have seen sometimes harsh criticism of the Bush Administration’s energy policies, environmental policies, and a host of other complaints the groups had against the White House. Some environmental groups were also running TV ads attacking the Bush Administration’s policies. But, after the terrorist attacks, the ads were pulled and many of the environmental groups removed those criticisms from their web sites in the name of national unity.
Joe Davis is editor of a tip sheet compiled for environmental journalists. He’s watched as most environmental groups have stifled their criticism since the attacks.
“I think everybody’s waiting just to see, you know, what’s going to happen in the next few days and weeks. And, of course, environmental groups are, for the most part, as patriotic as everybody else and people do understand that national unity is important.”
Some journalists have questioned whether the environmental groups are backing down from their positions or merely lying low for a little while. The environmental groups aren’t saying much. But behind the scenes, there’s concern that environmental protection will get trampled in the name of national security.
Meanwhile, some politicians have seen opportunities in the wake of the tragedy. Immediately after the attacks, the Alaska congressional delegation began pushing harder for oil drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. The members said such drilling would reduce America’s dependence on oil from the Middle East. They were admonished, though, for being opportunists in the wake of tragedy. The Alaska politicians quickly backed off and took the fight for drilling behind the scenes.
Outside of Washington, it’s a different story. Some state politicians have become even more vocal in their support of oil and gas exploration. Just before the terrorist attacks, Michigan’s Natural Resources Commission lifted a moratorium on drilling for oil and natural gas under the Great Lakes. The Michigan Legislature could still step in to block any such drilling. But some of the lawmakers say because of the terrorist attacks, Michigan should drill. Dale Shugars is a Republican State Senator who supports drilling under the lakes.
“With the sustained war that we’re going to be going into, I think it’s very important from a national security point of view that the country be more independent for oil and gas.”
Environmentalists in Michigan are appalled that Senator Shugars and some of their colleagues are taking that tact. James Clift is the policy director for the Michigan Environmental Council. He says the reserves under the lakes are so miniscule they’ll have next to no effect on the nation’s energy security and using the terrorist attacks to justify drilling under the Great Lakes is wrong.
“We do not believe that the unfortunate incident of the terrorist attack has changed anything as far as energy policy in the United States. The same conditions that applied before apply afterwards. And, even more so, I believe, is the importance for energy conservation. The United States only has four percent of the world’s reserves of oil and gas. Using those reserves up faster isn’t going to make the United States any more secure.”
But Senator Shugars thinks it is naïve to believe using less fuel will be enough. He says now that we’re at war with terrorists, it’s important to drill for fuel for the military and needs at home.
“It’s a fact that we’re going to be having a war against terrorism for a long time and I think that if one is going to look at a national energy policy, it has to include increasing supply and definitely – definitely has to be environmentally sensitive.”
Senator Shugars and others using the terrorist attacks to justify the energy and environmental policies that they want might be walking a tight rope. History shows Americans tend to frown on opportunism during times of national crisis. Environmental journalist Joe Davis says if politicians and energy industry leaders do use that approach, it could backfire. Especially since environmental groups are being quiet for the sake of a united patriotic front.
“Any party who tries to make short-term advantage out of a national crisis like this, I think, is very quickly going to be perceived as being exactly what it is: opportunistic. I don’t think the environmentalists will lay low forever and I don’t think they’re alone in questioning these things.”
But for now, most of the environmentalists are not saying much – at least publicly – about their opposition to the government’s energy and environmental policies. At least not until the nation begins to get past the shock of the terrorist attacks on the U.S.
For the Great Lakes Radio Consortium, this is Lester Graham.
Some environmentalists are concerned that the terrorist attacks on September 11th will hurt the environmental movement. The Great Lakes Radio Consortium’s Jonathan Ahl reports:
Some environmentalists are concerned that the terrorist attacks on September
11th will hurt the environmental movement. The Great Lakes Radio Consortium’s Jonathan Ahl reports.
Tom Lowe is a professor of environmental management at Ball State University in
Munice, Indiana. He says the reaction to the attacks could lead to bad decisions that would devastate the environment down the road.
“If we continue to spoil the environment, the tragedy of 9-11 is going to be amplified many times by what is going to happen with the environmental impact of global warming and other kinds of problems.”
Lowe says one example is drilling for oil in the Arctic National Wildlife refuge. He says national security interests may push for that now, even though it will be damaging in the long run. For the Great Lakes Radio Consortium, I’m Jonathan Ahl.
A Michigan Department of Natural Resources proposal to lease Great Lakes bottomlands for oil and gas development has prompted a lot of discussion regarding the risks and benefits of drilling near the Great Lakes. As Great Lakes Radio Consortium commentator Michael Barratt explains, those resources can be developed now in an environmentally safe manner:
A Michigan Department of Natural Resources proposal to lease Great Lakes bottomlands for oil and gas development has prompted a lot of discussion regarding the risks and benefits of drilling near the Great Lakes. As commentator Michael Barratt reveals, those resources can be developed now in an environmentally safe manner.
People around the Great Lakes have seen quantum jumps in the price of energy within the last few months. Gasoline prices in Michigan for example are approaching $2.00/ gallon, natural gas prices have increased 40-60%, and propane prices have increased markedly.
Since Michigan only produces 4% of its crude oil demand and 30% of its natural gas demand, we need to find ways to both conserve and maintain our energy supply.
The Michigan Department of Natural Resources has proposed to lease land under the Great Lakes for the purpose of drilling wells from onshore locations. The proposed procedures require new wells to be located at least 1,500′ from the shoreline. They also require that sites be screened, and no drilling is to be permitted in dune areas, floodplains, or environmentally sensitive areas.
Additional wells drilled under Great Lakes waters may encounter significant reserves to help Michigan have a secure energy supply. Using a safe and proven technology known as directional drilling, it is possible to reach and produce these reserves with little to no effect on the surrounding areas. There have been 13 wells drilled under Great Lakes waters from onshore locations since 1979. Seven of those wells, which are still producing, have produced 439,000 barrels of oil and more than 17 billion cubic feet of gas. There have been no spills, accidents, or incidents associated with the wells since they have been drilled.
New wells drilled under Great Lakes waters, if drilling is allowed , could produce an additional 90 billion cubic feet of gas, and 2 million barrels of oil; enough to heat more than 1 million homes and fuel 157,500 cars for a year. We now have a window of opportunity to use existing infrastructure associated with the currently producing wells to develop some of the additional reserves under the Great Lakes. Drilling pads, roads, pipelines, and production facilities are in place that can be used to drill new wells under the Great Lakes.
Besides energy security, the people of Michigan benefit from royalties paid to the State of Michigan. That money is put into the Michigan Natural Resources Trust Fund to develop and extend parks, and to purchase wetlands and other environmentally sensitive areas. The seven wells currently producing have contributed more than $16,000,000 to the Fund. Additional wells drilled under the Great Lakes could contribute another $85,000,000-$100,000,000
Let’s develop the State’s Bottomland resources now in a safe and environmentally friendly way to ensure that Great Lakes waters and shorelines can be enjoyed by future generations and also to make sure we have the energy supplies here to maintain our quality of life.
As the debate on a national energy policy intensifies, the hunt for more places to drill and dig for new energy is escalating. States are now turning their attention to prospecting in one place that hits close to home: the Great Lakes. As Great Lakes Radio Consortium commentator Cameron Davis of the Lake Michigan Federation explains, drilling under the continent’s largest body of fresh surface water is not something to be taken lightly:
As the debate on a national energy policy intensifies, the hunt for more places to drill and dig for new energy is escalating. States are now focusing their attention on prospecting for one place that hits close to home: the Great Lakes. As commentator Cameron Davis of the Lake Michigan Federation explains, drilling under the continent’s largest body of fresh surface water is not something to be taken lightly.
No matter which estimate you believe – that there’s only enough oil and gas to power a Great Lakes state for 2 minutes or 8 weeks – opening the Great Lakes to new oil and gas drilling is simply not worth the risk. Hydrogen sulfide, known to exist in lakebed oil and gas reserves, can escape during drilling causing far-reaching human health problems. Wellhead and pipeline leaks can contaminate groundwater and surface water in streams, often without adequate cleanups by the state agency responsible for drilling oversight. And, drilling can damage some of the most fragile fish and wildlife habitat known, habitat that exists along Great Lakes coasts.
The argument that drilling means more royalties to states doesn’t even hold up. One state Auditor General recently found that oversight of leasing and royalty payments from drilling operations continues to be lax. What does this mean? It means that taxpayers aren’t getting the financial benefits from drilling that they’re supposed to get.
Last, it’s not unusual for the same state agency to serve as subjective promoter of drilling while at the same time supposing to be the objective regulator. States such as Michigan, which is leading the charge for new drilling, can’t have it both ways and maintain their credibility. If they try to have it both ways, it’s inevitable that Congress will step in – as it did this summer with its own legislation.
President Bush, legislative leaders from both sides of the aisle, and a majority of citizens have all said that Great Lakes oil and gas drilling isn’t worth the risk. So why does a bad idea keep moving forward?
The House of Representatives recently approved a bill that would allow drilling in the Arctic Refuge. Although the Senate is not expected to follow the lead, the bill’s passage in the House demonstrates the fragile and often complex alliances that come together – and fall apart – when passions run deep. Great Lakes Radio Consortium commentator Julia King suspects that it might just be time to re-examine old political friendships:
The House of Representatives recently approved a bill that would allow drilling in the Arctic Refuge. Although the Senate is not expected to follow the lead, the bill’s passage in the House demonstrates the fragile and often complex alliances that come together – and fall apart — when passions run deep. Great Lakes Radio commentator, Julia King, suspects that it might just be time to re-examine old political friendships.
Labor unions have a proud history of righting some of the many wrongs inherent in capitalism. One of those “wrongs” is the tendency to put the pursuit of economic gain ahead of almost everything else. Labor unions have worked tirelessly in this country — and throughout the world — to shift attitudes about working conditions and living wages and to create a balance between profit margins and social justice. For this, they should be applauded.
But recently they took a giant step backwards when unions lobbied heavily in favor of (and helped to pass) a House bill that would allow drilling in the Arctic Refuge. The Teamsters say that the drilling will create some 700,000 domestic jobs. A lobbyist for the Teamsters was quoted as saying, “What environmentalists fail to realize is that we are not an environmental organization… Our responsibility is to grow the work force.” And for some key Democrat players, such as Representative Dick Gephart, environmental concerns eroded under the pressures of long-held loyalties to working class Americans.
But by supporting Bush’s energy plan, labor will undercut not only the environment, but it’s own hard-won credibility. Labor will cease to be a voice for progress, and instead become a voice of conspicuous self-interest. For unions, pitting economics against the environment is a dangerous game: if decisions are made based on jobs and dollars without attention to broader social concerns, then we’re back where we started — a place where profits trump everything, including the needs of the working class.
From coalmines to vineyards, labor leaders have shown the world – usually with great resistance from business owners — that businesses can thrive even when they respect their workers. The economic sky doesn’t fall when employees are given their fair share. Yet now the Teamsters are using the same tactics that businesses have used for years. They want to add up the dollars in the Arctic Refuge and declare the equation complete without regard to the broader implications.
Under any scenario, the oil that’s in the refuge is finite. Any jobs that are created by the drilling will eventually disappear because the practice is not sustainable. Instead of clinging to Old Guard energy policies in an effort to squeeze the last pennies out of a dying industry, unions would be wise to use their considerable political clout to help usher in a new era of clean, sustainable energy production. And if organized labor is unable to support wise, long-term energy plans, it’s time for politicians to question NOT good environmental policy, but their loyalties to labor.