TRAVERSE CITY, Mich. (AP) — Companies using a procedure called hydraulic fracturing to pull oil and natural gas from deep underground in Michigan would have to take extra steps to protect ground and surface waters under regulations outlined Tuesday.
The Michigan Department of Environmental Quality said it's proposing new rules for the operation commonly known as "fracking" and expects to implement them next year. DEQ Director Dan Wyant said the agency developed the ideas during more than 200 public meetings over the past two years.
"We heard loud and clear that there is a growing concern about fracturing," he said. "We feel we have the strongest regulatory program in the country. This is just making it stronger."
Fracking involves pumping water, chemicals and sand at high pressure into deep wells to crack open rock formations and release trapped gas. Opponents say it could pollute groundwater and do other environmental damage. Some are gathering petition signatures seeking a statewide referendum on banning it.
The oil and gas industry and the DEQ say the procedure has been used on more than 12,000 Michigan wells since 1952 with no groundwater contamination.
Developers recently have targeted deeper rock formations up to 12,000 feet below the surface. A Canadian company has said it eventually could drill up to 500 wells in Michigan. Nineteen "high-volume" wells, using more than 100,000 gallons of water and chemicals, have been completed statewide.
Wyant said the DEQ will take public comments on the new rules and could put them in place within six to nine months.
They would require companies doing high-volume fracking to use a state computer tool to assess whether the volume of groundwater they'd use would damage rivers or streams. Drillers would have to sample water from wells within a quarter-mile of their operations before starting and monitor them afterward for signs of pollution.