Thursday, April 25, 2013



           I have always been a nature lover. When I was twelve years old I spent a lot of time sitting by a small pond in the Connecticut woods, reveling in shiny green frogs lolling near the surface and in the amazingly varied feathers of the towee.  

             It was enormously soothing to my soul just to sit there, watching sunlight dappling the still surface where emerald dragonflies hovered and water skaters zipped back and forth..  Sixty-four years later, I feel just the same, watching salmon spawn among the sunlit pebbles of my Northern Michigan river, content in my very bones when the wood turtle slides down the bank and paddles away through all that dappled sepia.


                                       The Betsie River          avp

 used to take solace in the thought that when I die the earth will live on, but not any more.  As the weather changes drastically, as more and more powerful storms assail us and temperatures reach 100 degrees even in northern Michigan, I am terrified that we have polluted our atmosphere beyond earth’s tipping point.  Al Gore tells how he was crossing a busy boulevard after a baseball game, holding his little boy’s hand, when he felt it slip from his grasp.  The child was terribly injured, but survived. Today Gore feels that it is the earth that is slipping through our fingers. Profoundly fearful about climate degredation, he advises us to live with our fear and then use it as a source of energy for action on behalf of our planet.

 Even though we have brought this on ourselves, we feel so terribly puny. How can we stand up for the fantastically complex, interwoven web of natural being that is our only home? 

For years I have addressed threats to our planet as an environmental novelist.  telling the story of self-sustaining wetland communities fighting greedy merchants determined to drain their marshes for agricultural development:

“Modreck sniffed. There was a fishy smell, though not a pleasant one.  Their way led over slate grey flats stretched to the western horizon. The dried-out mud wasn’t entirely level; there were splotches here and there, some dark and some lighter, shimmering in the morning sun. The company halted abruptly as Berwyn fell to his knees, rocking back and forth, keening in his own language.

‘Oh bright ones, leaping ones, speckled ones

 golden-eyed ones, brown-striped ones

 wise-eyed ones, hump-shelled ones, flat-shelled ones

All dead,  all gone!’

                  ‘It’s the frogs he’s mourning,” translated Eryx, ‘and the turtles         and the fishes and the eels and the great red salamanders. The engineers have drained this part of the Reedlands down to nothing.’

They bowed their heads in horrified respect.

from The Battle for the Black Fen, vol III of The Infinite Games Series

When I came across this profound Pledge of Allegiance to the Earth, I knew I had to do more.

© Janina Lamb • • all rights reserved• used with permission

We need to speak out on behalf of Mother Earth, walking our talk in these perilous times.  We can each act individually, signing petitions and writing government officials and/or undertake group actions, like joining organizations already involved in an issue and getting your friends and neighbors to rally around you. Since fracking is an issue in Michigan, I decided to look into it. I came up with a list of pros and cons and of possible actions:


Fracking is hydraulic fracturing by pumping water, sand and chemicals into layers of shale so that oil or gas can be extracted.  Horizontal fracturing ruptures shale deep underground, in contrast to vertical fracking, where the wells are shallower. 

There are less federal than state regulations about fracking, so that most decisions are made at the state level.  The Michigan Department of Environmental Quality finds the practice safe. They say that there is enough regulation in place to prevent harm to people or to the environment

Research teams from The University of Michigan are studying the impact of hydraulic fracturing, especially horizontal fracturing, in Michigan. Their results will be available in 2014.

In Pennsylvania, people living near a well are suing a gas drilling company for contaminating  their water.  Independent tests have found copper, nickel, zinc and titanium. They are suffering from nausea, breathing issues, bone pain and other health difficulties,

Because of this situation in Pennsylvania, New York State has banned horizontal hydrofracking until at least 2015, so that they can research the environmental impact more extensively.

David Suzuki narrated a chilling documentary on the Canadian Broadcast System’s “Nature” program about the devastation a Colorado town near Denver where fields close to many homes were developed for fracking.  Children suffered nose-bleeds and breathing difficulties, the water became undrinkable, people had to move out, and housing values plummeted.

Multiple earthquakes in Ohio have been attributed to fracking .  (Faults created by fracking have also caused earthquakes in the Netherlands)

Also, the fracking process releases methane into the atmosphere.

Meanwhile, home in Michigan, there is an extensive band of oil and gas fields stretching right across the state, just below the tip of the mitten, and cutting down through Benzie and Manistee counties to the Lake Michigan shore.  Recently, a natural gas well near Traverse City leaked into well water, and a homeowner near Kalkaska discovered that the value of her house had plummeted because of nearby gas drilling. This has led the Department of Environmental Quality to shift from its earlier declaration about gas drilling safety and call for “a public dialogue over whether we need to look at or change any of the fracking regulations.” Governor Snyder is also waiting completion of this study to determine the environmental impact of the fracking process.

Once we have informed ourselves, what are the positions each of us might choose from?

Possible Positions

1.      Support fracking.  We have the word of the gas and oil companies that the process is safe, so we should not impede the development of a fuel source that is so much cleaner and cheaper than coal and that can help us toward energy independence.

2.      Study it further and make the industry more transparent. Since gas is a cleaner-burning energy than coal, it is worth developing, but it needs to be safe.   This is the Sierra Club’s position. Its Beyond Natural Gas group is working for better standards within the natural gas industry.  They want to close legal loopholes permitting companies to “ignore basic environmental and health protections.”  They organize submissions of public comments to support the Environmental Protection Agency’s clean air safeguard for natural gas fracking, and lobby state officials to enforce regulations about disclosing what chemicals are being used.

 Michigan’s Clean Water Action group is taking a similar position.

           If you choose this position, you might want to look at  twp new Congressional bills (Reps Jaret Polis (-Colo) and Matt Cartwright (D-Pa) to repeal exemptions for oil and gas companies under the Clean Air Act and Clean Water Act.  H.R. 1154 (BREATHE) is “Bringing Reductions to Energy’s Airborne Toxic Health Effect.   H.R. 1175 (FRESHER) is “FocusedReduction of Effluence and Stormwater Runoff Through Hydraulic Environmental Regulation.”

If you take this position you might want to join www.Let’ here, for example, is what Baldimore accomplished: @Food & Water Watch Maryland is celebrating a victory today! After a unanimous vote in the Baltimore City Council, Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake signed the fracking wastewater ban bill into law, making it illegal to treat or dispose of toxic and radioactive fracking wastewater in Baltimore. Click LIKE to say thanks to Councilman Jim Kraft, Blue Water Baltimore, Baltimore Harbor Waterkeeper, Maryland Environmental Health Network and Clean Water Action!


3.      Oppose Fracking and Work for alternate sources of energy.  The process of fracking is environmentally degrading and hazardous for human health, and less environmentally friendly than solar and wind sources of energy. Work with proponents of solar and wind energy to develop these cleaner resources.

Hydraulic Fracturing or Fracking  websites

Listed are websites which have information on fracking. Use the search term “fracking” to locate the information on the particular website..


1. US Environmental Protection Agency

EPA is working with states and other key stakeholders to help ensure that natural gas extraction does not come at the expense of public health and the environment. The Agency's focus and obligations under the law are to provide oversight, guidance and, where appropriate, rulemaking that achieve the best possible protections for the air, water and land where Americans live, work and play. The Agency is investing in improving our scientific understanding of hydraulic fracturing, providing regulatory clarity with respect to existing laws, and using existing authorities where appropriate to enhance health and environmental safeguards.

Conducting a study on hydraulic fracturing and its potential impact on drinking water resources.


2. MI Dept of Environmental Quality


3. Sierra Club

The Sierra Club's Beyond Natural Gas works to promote strong standards within the natural gas industry. Natural gas companies should be subject to additional scrutiny and strong national and state safeguards in order to protect our air, water, and communities. If we can’t protect our health and treasured landscapes from the damages caused by the natural gas industry and fracking, then we should not drill for natural gas.


4. ExxonMobil Corp 


5. FracFocus 

Chemical Disclosure Registry

… the national hydraulic fracturing chemical registry. … managed by the Ground Water Protection Council and Interstate Oil and Gas Compact Commission, two organizations whose missions both revolve around conservation and environmental protection.
          The site was created to provide the public access to reported chemicals used for hydraulic fracturing within their area. To help users put this information into perspective, the site also provides objective information on hydraulic fracturing, the chemicals used, the purposes they serve and the means by which groundwater is protected.
          The primary purpose of this site is to provide factual information concerning hydraulic fracturing and groundwater protection.  It is not intended to argue either for or against the use of hydraulic fracturing as a technology.  It is also not intended to provide a scientific analysis of risk associated with hydraulic fracturing. While FracFocus is not intended to replace or supplant any state governmental information systems it is being used by a number of states as a means of official state chemical disclosure.  Currently, ten states: Colorado, Oklahoma, Louisiana, Texas, North Dakota, Montana, Mississippi, Utah, Ohio and Pennsylvania use Fracfocus in this manner.  Finally, this site does not deal with issues unrelated to chemical use in hydraulic fracturing such as Naturally Occurring Radioactive Material (NORM).  This topic is beyond the current scope of this site.


6. Ground Water Protection Council

… (GWPC) is a nonprofit 501(c)6 organization whose members consist of state ground water regulatory agencies which come together within the GWPC organization to mutually work toward the protection of the nation’s ground water supplies. The purpose of the GWPC is to promote and ensure the use of best management practices and fair but effective laws regarding comprehensive ground water protection.

Our mission is to promote the protection and conservation of ground water resources for all beneficial uses, recognizing ground water as a critical component of the ecosystem. We provide an important forum for stakeholder communication and research in order to improve governments’ role in the protection and conservation of groundwater.



7. Interstate Oil and Gas Compact Commission   IOGCC advocates for environmentally-sound ways to increase the supply of American Energy. We accomplish this by providing governors of member states with a clear and unified voice to Congress, while also serving as the authority on issues surrounding these vital resources.

The Commission also assists states in balancing a multitude of interests through sound regulatory practices. Our unique structure offers a highly effective forum for states, industry, Congress and the environmental community to share information and viewpoints to advance our nation's energy future. We stand dedicated to securing resources needed to ensure our nation's energy, economic and national security.

8. National Wildlife Federation

The National Wildlife Federation is working to:

  • Require fracking companies to disclose the chemicals they are releasing into the environment.
  • Make sure fracking companies are held accountable to America's keystone conservation laws like the Clean Water Act and Safe Drinking Water Act.
  • Protect key habitats and public lands from fracking.


9. Clean Water Action/Michigan

… a one million member organization of diverse people and groups joined together to protect our environment, health, economic well-being and community quality of life. Our goals include clean, safe and affordable water; prevention of health threatening pollution; creation of environmentally safe jobs and businesses; and empowerment of people to make democracy work. Clean Water Action organizes strong grassroots groups and coalitions and campaigns to elect environmental candidates and solve environmental and community problems.