Push to ban fracking in Michigan moves forward

LANSING (WXYZ) - The Michigan Board of Canvassers voted today to green light a group that's push to end fracking throughout the state.

In a 3-0 vote, the board approved the forms needed to collect signatures in the group's effort to prohibit the controversial drilling practice from taking place statewide.

Short for hydraulic fracturing, fracking is the process of drilling deep into the ground and pumping a high pressure mix of water and chemicals into shale rocks.  It fractures the rock and releases the natural gas inside. The process has been linked to possible health risks. 

"It does pollute as a matter of course," said LuAnne Kozma, the campaign chairwoman for the Committee to Ban Fracking in Michigan. "It’s not a matter of just accidents or leaks, but it always pollutes.  It always takes water and always pollutes that water, and now it becomes frack waste."

Two states, Vermont and New York, have already banned fracking. Kozma and her group will need to gather about 250,000 signatures to have any hope of making Michigan the third.  If successful, the measure will move to the state legislature who can make it law. If they don’t,  voters get to decide on the November 2016 ballot.

Kozma says that fracking is just getting stared in MIchigan, "which is why now is an excellent time to ban it. There’s been about 60 or so permits granted, not all of those wells are in yet. "

But even if Kozma’s group gets the needed signatures, she can expect a battle from organizations like the Michigan Chamber of Commerce.

"We are going to fight this all the way through, every step of the way we are going to oppose this," said the Chamber's general counsel James Holcomb.

Holcomb fought unsuccessfully today to stop Kozma from starting to collect the needed signatures.  He says that, fracking aside, the petition doesn’t tell voters the whole story. 

"When they sign, they don’t know that they’re signing to reduce dollars to the Natural Resources Trust Fund," Holcomb said. "They don’t know that they’re signing to impair rights of contract. They don’t know that they’re signing to really attack private property rights here in Michigan and we think that’s a problem."

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