Tag: jim olson

Michigan Corps Member Spotlight: FLOW

Click here to read the article on Michigan Corps’ site

For more about Michigan Corps, click here to visit their site.

By Jason Aoraha

Jim Olson has been practicing environmental law for forty years. In recent years, the Northern Michigander began asking himself how he could bring a group of concerned citizens together to protect water and natural resources under an ancient doctrine known as the public trust, which demands stewardship of our water resources – from navigation to drinking water to recreational needs. He founded FLOW (For Love of Water) to bring Michigan citizens together to protect our state’s most coveted natural resource, and the largest group of freshwater lakes on Earth, the Great Lakes.

FLOW’s mission is to advance Great Lakes policies and solutions that protect our common waters. This year, FLOW entered Michigan Corps’ first Social Entrepreneurship Challenge, and emerged a finalist for their unique policy and education programs that empower individuals with solutions to protect the integrity of Michigan’s waters. Based in Traverse City, FLOW is in a great position (both figuratively and literally) to empower citizens, decision-makers, and legal advocates alike with guidelines on how to protect the Great Lakes.

Founder Jim Olson expresses the passion of a social entrepreneur out to protect and build stewardship of our environment. “FLOW’s work is grounded in reality and a fundamental human value: Water is life. Water runs through every aspect of human endeavor and community. If we protect the integrity of this water, in both quantity and quality, we will sustain life, economy, and community. After all, there is no green without blue,” he says.

FLOW participated as a star contestant in our 2013 Pure Michigan Social Entrepreneurship Challenge with their focus on harnessing the passion of individuals to make a difference surrounding the future of our Great Lakes. We were impressed with FLOW’s focus on scaling their impact through partnerships with organizations that shared their passion, such as the Michigan Environmental Council, Michigan Land Use Institute and others. The team at FLOW understands that to change society for the better, we must build the capacity of our organizations and one another to create groundbreaking policies that address pressing concerns surrounding the future of our waters. Most recently, FLOW pioneered Great Lakes policy and education for citizens and planning officials to suggest improvements to local government ordinances pertaining to the environmental impact of fracking for oil and natural gas extraction.

Following the conclusion of the Social Entrepreneurship Challenge, FLOW joined Michigan Corps’ first cohort of Social Enterprise Fellows. The Fellowship training program helped FLOW evaluate their programming and diversify opportunities for citizens to interact with FLOW’s policy, education, and Great Lakes Society programs.

FLOW and its members are striving to make the Great Lakes a beacon for groundbreaking environmental stewardship. This year, FLOW plans to bring Maude Barlow, a world leader in global water policy and crisis affairs, to Detroit to help catalyze local thought leadership and action surrounding the future of our Great Lakes.

Entrepreneurial thinking is giving FLOW a new perspective on Great Lakes development and advocacy work. If you’re passionate about the Great Lakes, and want to connect with one of the most pioneering organizations involving Michigan’s fresh water – visit flowforwater.org and consider becoming a Great Lakes Society member. It’ll make your next trip to Traverse City that much more meaningful! Also make sure to check out their programs, special public events and up to the minute blog.

The Province: B.C. should enshrine ‘public trust’ principle to protect its groundwater, says Michigan water lawyer

Read the full article in The Province here

Nestle - Laurence Gillieron, APAmid growing controversy around B.C.’s lax groundwater regulation, an American lawyer who waged a 10-year winning court battle against Nestlé is watching to see how the province modernizes its century-old Water Act.

The Province’s reports last week on Nestlé and other companies extracting B.C. groundwater without regulation caught the attention of Michigan environmental lawyer Jim Olson, who offered his views on the matter.

Olson is no stranger to these issues. In 2010, he was awarded the State Bar of Michigan’s Champion of Justice award for the decade-long court battle he waged on behalf of Michigan citizens against Nestlé.

The case of Michigan Citizens for Water Conservation vs. Nestlé began in 2000, when activists grew concerned the government was not adequately monitoring or controlling Nestlé’s water-taking practices in the region.

Representing the citizens, Olson won the case, resulting in Nestlé being ordered to reduce its water withdrawals during low-flow seasons.

Now, Olson says he’s watching B.C. But beyond the specific details of B.C.’s proposed water regulation — the price charged per million litres, the number of litres allowed, how much to allocate to different users, and so on — Olson says one vital piece of any new legislation is a broader legal concept: the public trust.

“This is true in both the United States and Canada, both states and provinces, no matter what water regime you choose … it’s going to be very important for each province to declare water a public trust,” Olson said from his law office in Michigan.

The public trust concept essentially means water is a public resource owned by the people of Canada, with the government acting as a trustee responsible for taking care of the resource.

“It’s a very important principle, even if it’s a one-paragraph declaration,” Olson said. “It would operate as a shield against unforeseen claims and unforeseen circumstances.”

Olson gives a hypothetical example: if, at some point in the future, B.C.’s water resources were depleted significantly, the government might ask a bottled water company to reduce their water takings accordingly. But without the public trust doctrine enshrined in legislation, it would be much more difficult to make that company reduce its consumption, not unlike Olson’s court case against Nestlé in Michigan.

The public trust doctrine is becoming increasingly common and established in modern water legislation, said Oliver Brandes, a water expert from the University of Victoria’s faculty of law. The legal concept is more evolved in several American states, and has been incorporated into environmental legislation in some parts of Canada, including Yukon, Northwest Territories, and Quebec.

The public trust concept acknowledges that water is different from other resources, said Brandes.

“There are certain resources that are just so special, because life depends on it,” Brandes said. “Something like oil and gas, it isn’t crucial to life. But water, you have to protect it for everybody, because if you take it away, there is no substitute.”

Annual Celebration of the Great Lakes Society

Click here to view and download the full press release PDF

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Contact: Liz Kirkwoood, Executive Director
231 944 1568 or liz@flowforwater.org

FLOW HOSTS ITS FIRST ANNUAL CELEBRATION
Celebrating the Great Lakes Society: Common Waters, Common Purpose

TRAVERSE CITY, MI – FLOW (“For Love Of Water”), the Great Lakes Basin’s only public trust policy and education center, is hosting its first Great Lakes Society Annual Celebration at The Workshop Brewing Company in Traverse City, MI from 12-3pm, on Saturday, August 17, 2013. FLOW welcomes community members and guests of all ages to join in the celebration and learn about FLOW’s programs and the Great Lakes Society. Great Lakes Society members share a common purpose: to protect the common waters of the Great Lakes Basin. The Society’s members provide vital funding to FLOW with a four-year pledge of support. FLOW will present two Beacon Awards to acknowledge those members who have shown tremendous passion for and dedication to protecting the Great Lakes. This free program includes performances by several talented local musicians, including pianist Jimmy Olson and vintage swing duo The True Falsettos. FLOW would like to thank our generous co-sponsors Oryana Natural Foods Market and Food for Thought for their support.

FLOW’s Founder and Chair, Jim Olson notes that “FLOW’s cutting edge work—on water, energy and food, climate change, water levels, invasive species, diversions and exports, nutrient loading and the public trust doctrine—would not be possible without our Great Lakes Society. These dedicated supporters make our work here at FLOW possible and allows us to apply our critical research and work to protect waters of the Great Lakes.”

FLOW invites water lovers to join the Great Lakes Society in its founding year. New members pledging and making their first year contribution before December 31, 2013 will be recognized as Founding Members. Members pledge a four-year commitment to donate at one of three levels.

  • Isle Royale Member: $500 or more per year for four years
  • Mackinaw Member: $250 per year for four years
  • Manitou Member: $125 per year for four years

Great Lakes Society Founding Member and Director of the Environmental Law Center at Vermont Law School, Melissa Scanlan, says that joining the organization is important for maintaining the integrity of these shared waters, which contain 20% of the world’s freshwater supply. “I support FLOW by joining the Great Lakes Society because the Great Lakes are a public treasure to be protected today for future generations,” says Scanlan.

GLS INVITE POSTERFLOW is fortunate to host the party at a brand new venue, The Workshop Brewing Company, located at 221 Garland Street in the Warehouse District. The Workshop’s mission is to sustain nature, build community, and honor the craft of brewing beer. They do this by creating honest, traditional beers and wholesome, delicious food using ingredients sourced as locally/organically as possible, served with genuine warmth and enthusiasm, in a setting that is welcoming and fun.

FLOW is delighted to celebrate with performers pianist Jimmy Olson and vintage swing duoThe True Falsettos. Born and raised in Northern Michigan, pianist Jimmy Olson graduated from Interlochen Arts Academy with a major in percussion and continued his studies at the L.A. Musicians Institute in California. Olson formerly played with bands including Egon and Medicinal Groove, and now plays with G Snacks. Olson plays throughout Northern Michigan on a regular basis with his band and as a solo musician.

The True Falsettos are a vintage swing duo featuring Joe Wilson (Steel Guitar, Guitar, Vocals) and Kevin Gills (Bass, Vocals). Embracing the hot jazz and swing styles of the 30’s and 40’s, Joe and Kevin play some of the liveliest, most danceable music around. In addition to original tunes, Joe and Kevin play the songs of the Nat King Cole trio, Bob Wills and the Texas Playboys, Fat Waller, Jimmie Lunceford, and Louis Jordan.

FLOW greatly appreciates the help of our event co-sponsors, Oryana Natural Foods Marketand Food for Thought. Oryana has been supporting good food, sustainable agriculture and cooperative economics since 1973. The co-op offers high quality food produced in ecologically sound ways at fair value to member-owners and the community at large. Local, Fair Trade and organic foods are emphasized. Oryana was Michigan’s first Certified Organic Retailer. Today, Oryana generates $14 million sales annually from their 8,800-square-foot facility located in Traverse City.

Food For Thought produces more than gourmet, organic canned preserved goods; their goal is to produce gifts that matter. When you give a gift from Food For Thought, you can be assured that they have done their best to bring you products that make a difference in the quality of life on this planet. Satisfaction is guaranteed. Food For Thought strives to be a model of corporate responsibility that is expressed, in part, through an unwavering commitment to organic foods. Such a commitment has a direct and positive impact on the quality of land and water. Not only does Food For Thought make products that help sustain and preserve our natural world, but they are also of the best quality available anywhere.

We look forward to spending the afternoon with our current and future Great Lakes Society members.

Toledo Blade: Great Lakes ‘ground zero’ for water needs

Read the article on the Toledo Blade here

By Tom Henry, Blade Staff Writer

Climate change and population growth are making the Great Lakes region’s role as a global food producer more important as water shortages become more severe in other parts of the world.

But even though some agribusinesses within this water-blessed region have growing concerns about future water availability, that message may be hard for area residents to fathom in the short-term because of an unusually long bout of thunderstorms this summer.

“The coming water crisis will affect everyone and everywhere, including everyone and every community in the Great Lakes region and basin,”said Jim Olson, a Traverse City water-rights lawyer.

The Great Lakes are positioned to become “ground zero” as water vanishes elsewhere. The region has long been viewed as one of the world’s most abundant collections of fresh water and would be in a crucial position to adapt to a global water crisis.

The Great Lakes are North America’s largest lakes by volume, holding 20 percent of all fresh surface water on Earth. Their 6 quadrillion gallons are enough to submerge the entire continental United States in five feet of water. They are the source of drinking water for 30 million Americans and 10 million Canadians.

They do not hold as much fresh water as the world’s largest lake, Russia’s Lake Baikal, nor do they come close to holding most of the fresh water on Earth. But unlike Lake Baikal, which is in Siberia, the Great Lakes lie in a moderate climate and are accessible to people daily for shipping, recreation, tourism, drinking water, agriculture, energy production, and manufacturing.

U.S. Rep. Marcy Kaptur (D., Toledo) is one of several public officials who have described the Great Lakes region as “the Saudi Arabia of water” in recent years, to underscore the point that water is becoming more valuable than oil in some parts of the world. She and others have noted that humans can live without oil, but not water.

Changing times
The lakes’ usage has drawn more attention in recent years from politicians and legal scholars, such as those who attend the University of Toledo college of law’s renowned Great Lakes water-law conference each fall. They have stated on numerous occasions that Great Lakes water-management laws pale in comparison to those of the American Southwest, where political battles over water rights have been fought for decades.

Scholars believe this region’s legal framework is evolving into a stronger one as water controversies and more political battles heat up, as evidenced by intense negotiations that resulted in the Great Lakes region’s first binding water-management compact.

The Great Lakes region has traditionally been less irrigated than others. But that too is changing.

Michigan and Ohio have had an uptick in irrigation permits the past two years, largely a result of the 2012 drought and concerns over weather becoming more unpredictable because of climate change.

“Farmers are just hedging against bad weather,” Jim Hoorman, Ohio State University’s cooperative extension agent in Putnam County, said of the greater interest in Great Lakes-area irrigation. Mr. Hoorman also is an OSU assistant professor of agriculture and natural resources.

The long-term outlook has the potential to affect anything from shipping to recreation to water quality, potentially worsening western Lake Erie’s algae as changing food markets worldwide prompt area land to be farmed more intensely.

“We are blessed in Ohio with water, but there is a need for a long-term strategy on [better] managing the resource,” said Larry Antosch, Ohio Farm Bureau Federation senior director of policy development and environmental policy.

‘Peak water’
The issue gained more traction recently following the publication of a major essay by Lester R. Brown, president of the Washington-based Earth Policy Institute and author of a book on the global politics of food scarcity.

In his paper, Mr. Brown notes half of the world’s population is in 18 countries that are water-stressed: They are pumping out aquifers faster than rain is replenishing them. That group includes the politically unstable Middle East but also China, India, and the United States — the world’s top three food producers.

Mr. Brown theorizes that if the world has now reached what is known as “peak water” — that point at which water will forever be used faster than it is replaced — then the business of growing food will change because it will be more difficult to produce it in water-stressed areas.

“The world has quietly transitioned into a situation where water, not land, has emerged as the principal constraint on expanding food supplies,” Mr. Brown wrote.

Great Plains
One of the most water-stressed parts of the United States is the Great Plains region, where water is being depleted fast from the massive Ogallala aquifer by Texas, Oklahoma, Kansas, and Nebraska.

The Ogallala is one of the nation’s most important aquifers but does not recharge with rainfall like a typical aquifer. It is one of two so-called “fossil aquifers” in the world that get special attention from hydrologists because of their proximity to large populations. Another one is in China.

A magnet effect
As Great Plains wells dry up, farms in the Great Lakes region and other parts of the Midwest will be under greater pressure to produce, officials said.

“We are going to see and are already seeing water-intensive industries move back to the Midwest,” said Jim Byrum, Michigan Agri-Business Association president.

One such industry is dairy farming.

Some California dairy farmers, frustrated by California’s tighter water restrictions, have relocated to northwest Ohio and parts of Michigan.

Mr. Byrum also said some northern Michigan farmland taken out of production years ago is being used for agriculture again — another sign of how demand for food is growing and how the Great Lakes region is evolving into a landing spot for those who encounter water shortages and other food-production issues elsewhere.

The Great Lakes region has gained about 10 growing days a year because of climate change. But that increase is offset by concerns about water, Mr. Antosch said.

Or, rather, water falling from the sky at the right time.

Extreme weather
Extreme weather events cause a mirage of water abundance. When there aren’t extended droughts, like the one in 2012, there can be long bouts of thunderstorms, as there have been this summer.

Rain from quick, passing thunderstorms rolls fast off soil and into rivers and streams. Farmers need soft, all-day soakers that better penetrate soil, Mr. Antosch said.

Linda Weavers, professor and chairman of Ohio State University’s civil, environmental, and geodetic engineering department, said farming more intensely could result in more nutrients and pesticides being used. That would “put a lot more stress on Lake Erie,” said Ms. Weavers, co-director of OSU’s Ohio Water Resources Center.

Scientists are promoting research into cover crops as a way of trapping more water and keeping more nutrients on farms, Mr. Hoorman said.

“In order to grow crops, you need water. But you need the right amount,” he said.

Chris Coulon, U.S. Natural Resources Conservation Service spokesman for Ohio, said that agency has a “healthy soils” campaign that promotes the water-holding capacity of dirt.

Great Lakes states have had less frost and ice because of climate change.

Less frost allows more pests to survive. That can lead to a greater use of pesticides and poorer water quality if chemicals get washed off land by rain, Mr. Antosch said.

Less ice means year-round evaporation of the lakes, which leads to lower lake levels. That leads to higher shipping costs.

Managing water
Water management is the focus of a regional water compact the eight Great Lakes states settled on after years of negotiations, following a Canadian firm’s 1998 attempt to ship Lake Superior water to Asia in tankers. Representatives of the agricultural community said they plan to keep a close eye on it to see if it is effective enough at protecting water resources for food production.

“The compact is the right context to frame this in,” said Howard Reeves, a scientist in the U.S. Geological Survey’s Michigan Water Science Center.

Brent Lofgren, a scientist for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Great Lakes Environmental Research Laboratory in Ann Arbor, said many of the global impacts raised by Mr. Brown’s paper are more closely associated with symptoms of human-induced stress than climate change.

Earth’s current population of 7.2 billion people is twice what it was in the mid-1960s. It is expected to exceed 10 billion people later this century.

China and India are using more water because they have become more modernized societies, with more energy production and automotive use.

“Higher standards of living require more land and more resources. That is very real pressure,” said John Bartholic, director of the Michigan State University Institute of Water Research. “What Les Brown talks about is real. We’re [using] too much water. We’ve all got to work together on this.”

The United States and Canada have worked together on mutual Great Lakes issues the past 114 years, since they signed the Boundary Waters Treaty of 1909. The theme of it was advanced in the Great Lakes Water Quality Agreement that former President Richard Nixon and former Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau signed in 1972. That agreement was updated in 2012 to reflect more modern issues such as climate change.

Contact Tom Henry at: thenry@theblade.com or 419-724-6079

UPDATE: Township Fracking Regulation Ordinance Program

Click here to view and download the full press release PDF

PRESS RELEASE

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

June 14, 2013

Fracking Ordinance Development Program Continues in Cannon Township

Gun Plain Charter Township Program Launches

TRAVERSE CITY, MI – FLOW, the Great Lakes Basin’s only public trust policy and education center, will be traveling down state to both Cannon Township and Gun Plain Charter Township on June 19 to facilitate a three-part workshop on legal strategies to address the impacts of horizontal hydraulic fracturing, or “fracking.” FLOW will assist these townships, in Kent and Allegan Counties respectively, to develop protective ordinances to regulate activities and harms related to fracking. Additionally, on June 24, FLOW, in partnership with Dr. Chris Grobbel, will present a similar introductory program in Yankee Springs Township, Barry County; the event is open to the greater community and officials.

In the morning of June 19, FLOW will return to Cannon Township to lead the second of this three-part workshop series. FLOW will facilitate the discussion and decision-making process to help Cannon Township leaders identify the ancillary fracking activities that are most important for their community to regulate. Township authorities and participating citizens will work to identify existing ordinances and craft new ordinances that are protective of land, air, and water impacts associated with fracking. Read the MLive article about the first meeting in Cannon here.

In the evening of June 19, FLOW will launch the first of three workshops in Gun Plain Charter Township. In this workshop, FLOW will provide an educational overview about the process of fracking, potential risks, and what communities can actually do to protect against fracking. FLOW Executive Director Liz Kirkwood explains that the legal strategies in development through this program “include zoning and police power ordinances, moratoriums, bans, and Michigan Environmental Protection Act (“MEPA”), among others.”

FLOW was invited by the grassroots group Concerned Citizens of Barry County to give an educational introductory presentation about fracking to citizens and local leaders. Since the beginning of the year, FLOW has given more than half a dozen of these presentations to groups and communities throughout the state of Michigan. As more meeting and presentations emerge, FLOW is spreading information and legal strategies in an effort to protect the Great Lakes Basin’s communities from the potential water, air, and land-use impacts of horizontal fracking.

Horizontal fracking for oil and natural gas is exempt from many regulatory laws at both the federal and state levels, including the Clean Water and Safe Drinking Water Acts, the Great Lakes Compact and Michigan’s Water Withdrawal Act. These townships are setting a precedent by being the first in the state of Michigan to develop fracking regulation ordinances in consultation with FLOW. Despite zoning prohibitions to regulate drilling, construction production, and operation of oil and gas wells, townships still do maintain legal authority to regulate ancillary activities, including roads, truck traffic, pipelines, flow lines, gathering lines, location of wells, disclosure of chemical use, air pollution and more. Moreover, townships can rely on other sources of authority such as police power ordinances.

 

# # #

FLOW is the Great Lakes Basin’s only public trust policy and education 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization. Our mission is to advance public trust solutions to save the Great Lakes.

Thousands demand Lone Pine drop its NAFTA lawsuit against Québec’s fracking moratorium

Coalition for petition against LPR to drop NAFTA lawsuit vs. Quebec

PRESS RELEASE

For immediate publication

Thousands demand Lone Pine drop its NAFTA lawsuit against Québec’s fracking moratorium

(Ottawa, May 31, 2013) – Two weeks after the launch of a public petition, organizers have received over 3,000 signatures demanding that energy company Lone Pine Resources drop its $250 million NAFTA (North America Free Trade Agreement) lawsuit against Canada for Québec’s moratorium on fracking.

The petition sponsors—the Council of Canadians, the Réseau québécois sur l’Intégration continentale (RQIC), Sierra Club US, FLOW (For Love of Water), Eau Secours! and AmiEs de la Terre—sent three letters to Lone Pine today, each signed by 1,000 people, and will continue to collect signatures until the company agrees to drop the suit.

“People across Canada and the United States are outraged that a company would claim it has a ‘right’ to frack under trade deals like NAFTA, and that we might have to pay Lone Pine Resources not to drill in the St. Lawrence,” says Emma Lui, water campaigner with the Council of Canadians. “There should be no ‘right’ to frack, or to dig a mine, or lay a pipeline. Investment treaties cannot be allowed to override community decisions.”

“Governments must have the flexibility to say ‘no’ to fracking and other environmentally destructive practices without trade rules getting in the way,” said Ilana Solomon, Trade Representative with the Sierra Club. “The fact that a U.S. oil and gas corporation has threatened to bring a trade case against the government of Canada over a law intended to protect the health and well-being of its citizens shows just how backward our trade rules have become.”

In 2011, the Quebec government placed a moratorium on all new drilling permits until a strategic environmental evaluation was completed. When the current Quebec government was elected last year, it extended the moratorium to all exploration and development of shale gas in the province. Last fall, Lone Pine indicated that it planned to challenge Quebec’s fracking moratorium. Instead of going to court, the Calgary-based company is using its incorporation in Delaware to access the investment protection chapter of NAFTA, which is only available to U.S. and Mexican companies, to challenge the Quebec moratorium in front of a paid, largely unaccountable investment tribunal. The company says the Québec moratorium is “arbitrary” and “capricious,” and that it deprives Lone Pine of its right to profit from fracking for natural gas in Québec’s Saint Lawrence Valley.

“Lone Pine must drop its scandalous lawsuit against this legitimate policy of the Quebec government, who has just been listening to its people,” says Pierre-Yves Serinet, coordinator of the Quebec Network on Continental Integration (RQIC). “These provisions of such free trade agreements are direct attacks on the sovereign right of the Quebec government to govern for the welfare of its population. It’s astonishing that the negotiations between Canada and the European Union (CETA) follow the same blueprint. Time has come to end the excessive powers to multinationals,” added the spokesperson for RQIC.

“No trade tribunal should allow a company to sue a State that tries to protect water, which is a common good at the core of the survival and the health of the peoples and the ecosystems. Eau Secours! presses the Quebec government to also change its antiquated law on mining, to improve its water law and its sustainable development regulations to clearly reaffirm this willingness of protection,” declared Martine Châtelain, president of the coalition for a responsible management of water Eau secours!.

“Water in North America is part of a single system, starting with hydrologic cycle, and subject to generational public trust responsibility,” says Jim Olson, Chair and President of FLOW. “A moratorium that exercises this responsibility can hardly be challenged as a regulation: public trust and water have inherent limits.”

The NAFTA dispute and letter-writing campaign is happening as the Parti Québécois introduces legislation that would ban fracking in the St. Lawrence Lowlands for up to five years. The organizations involved in the letter-writing campaign are encouraged by the decision but support a complete Quebec-wide moratorium on fracking for oil and gas.

-30-

MORE INFORMATION

Emma Lui, Water Campaigner, Council of Canadians,

613-298-8792elui@canadians.org

Twitter: @CouncilOfCDNs | www.canadians.org/fracking

FLOW Local Ordinance Program Brings Fracking Protection to Two Michigan Townships

Click here to view and download the full press release PDF

PRESS RELEASE

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

May 23, 2013

FLOW Local Ordinance Program Brings Fracking Protection to Two Michigan Townships

Michigan Communities Seek Regulation of Horizontal Hydraulic Fracturing for Natural Gas

TRAVERSE CITY, MI – Two Michigan Townships—Cannon Township and Gun Plain Charter Township—signed up with FLOW to develop regulatory ordinances on horizontal hydraulic fracturing, or “fracking.” FLOW is the Great Lakes Basin’s only public trust policy and education center.  These townships, in Kent County and Allegan County respectively, are taking the lead in protecting their community from the industrial land-use impacts and potential risks of fracking.

Fracking for oil and natural gas is exempt from many regulatory laws at both the federal and state levels, including the Clean Water and Safe Drinking Water Acts, the Great Lakes Compact and Michigan’s Water Withdrawal Act. These townships are setting a precedent by being the first in the state of Michigan to develop fracking regulation ordinances in consultation with FLOW. Despite zoning prohibitions to regulate drilling, construction production, and operation of oil and gas wells, townships still do maintain legal authority to regulate ancillary activities, including roads, truck traffic, pipelines, flow lines, gathering lines, location of wells, disclosure of chemical use, air pollution and more. Moreover, townships can rely on other sources of authority such as police power ordinances.

Last week, Cannon Township enacted a fracking moratorium and will not consider any requests for fracking activities for a period of six months, so that the township has an opportunity to study potential impacts. On Wednesday, May 22, FLOW held the first of three educational meetings with Cannon Township officials and community members to facilitate the development of a fracking ordinance there. In this process, FLOW works with the township to determine what areas of concern are most pertinent to the community to regulate. FLOW will facilitate this same fracking ordinance development program in Gun Plain Township, and the first meeting there is scheduled for June 19.

“Whether you are for or against fracking, the important things for communities to know are the impacts we face with this high-impact and water-intensive technology, and be prepared in advance to handle it,” remarks FLOW’s founder and chair, Jim Olson.

Gun Plain Township was one of several townships present at the March 18 Allegan County Supervisors meeting at which FLOW was invited to present an educational overview of legal strategies and tools for local communities to regulate fracking. FLOW has delivered a similar educational overview program a dozen times throughout Michigan in the past three months. This informational presentation is based on FLOW’s November 2012 report, “Horizontal Fracturing for Oil and Natural Gas in Michigan: Legal Strategies and Tools for Communities and Citizens.” FLOW’s report highlights legal strategies and policies designed to assist local governments in safeguarding their communities against the unprecedented and cumulative impacts of fracking.

Horizontal fracking requires injecting a cocktail of up to 21 million gallons of water and over 750 chemicals under high pressure into wells in order to fracture deep shale formations and release oil and natural gas. A review of literature on fracking and its associated risks reveals several concerns: (1) massive water withdrawals; (2) groundwater contamination; (3) surface spills and leaks; (4) wastewater management; (5) land-use impacts; (6) truck traffic and burden on infrastructure; (7) lack of public disclosure.

The Collingwood/Utica deep natural gas shale formation spans across Michigan’s Lower Peninsula; since May 2010, around 752,260 acres of Michigan’s state land has been leased for oil and gas development. Grassroots and citizen organizations throughout the state have expressed their concern about fracking in their communities. While there are no producing fracking wells in either Cannon or Gun Plain Townships, most state lands in both counties and a significant portion of private lands have already been leased for exploration.  In response to concerned citizens, these townships are taking preventative action with FLOW’s assistance. FLOW encourages other concerned citizens and coalitions to alert their township Supervisors and examine the need for similar regulatory ordinances to protect against the industrial impacts of fracking.

For more information:
Liz Kirkwood, Executive Director, FLOW, (231) 944-1568
liz@flowforwater.org | @FlowForWater | www.flowforwater.org

# # #

FLOW is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization whose mission is to advance public trust solutions to save the Great Lakes. Through its law and policy work, FLOW is raising public awareness about the public trust doctrine and its principles as a unifying framework to protect the commons and address the systemic threats to water, public lands, and the environment throughout the Great Lakes.

MLive: Cannon Township group gathers to discuss anti-fracking ordinance

Read the article on MLive here.

May 22, 2013 at 12:45 PM, updated May 22, 2013 at 1:06 PM

ROCKFORD, MI – A group of 15 citizens and township leaders gathered at the Cannon Township Hall on Wednesday, May 22, to create regulations that may limit hydraulic fracturing, or “fracking,” if an oil or gas well is ever drilled in the township.

Jim Olson, a Traverse City lawyer and founder of FLOW (For Love of Water) of Michigan said the session is the first of three he will lead with the goal of developing a zoning ordinance that would limit hydraulic fracturing in the township, located east of Rockford in northeastern Kent County.

Jim Olson, founder of FLOW (For Love Of Water) of Michigan, leads a meeting with citizens at at meeting in Cannon Township on Wednesday, May 22

Jim Olson, founder of FLOW (For Love Of Water) of Michigan, leads a meeting with citizens at at meeting in Cannon Township on Wednesday, May 22. (c) Jim Harger | MLive

“We will develop a package that is ready to turn over to your planner and your attorney,” Olson told the group at the outset of the two-hour meeting.

Earlier this month, the township’s board adopted a six-month moratorium on any “fracking” related activities while the board studies possible restrictions on “ancillary” activities.

Currently, there are no applications to drill oil and gas wells in the township or Kent County, according to the DEQ. Some private and public lands have been leased by oil and gas exploration companies.

“Fracking” pumps high volumes of water, sand and chemicals into oil and gas wells in an attempt to improve their flow.

Though “fracking” has been used on Michigan oil and gas wells for 60 years, environmentalists are concerned because “fracking” on modern horizontally drilled oil wells use millions of gallons of groundwater.

Olson told the group federal and state environmental laws exempt “fracking” activities while local governments are restricted from regulating the practice.

“We don’t take a position on whether fracking is good or bad,” he said. Banning the practice is not legal but local governments can take action to protect their water and air quality.

Banning the practice, Olson said, “is a difficult path to go down.” In fact, the state law says local groups are barred from regulating oil and gas drilling, he said.

But townships can govern “ancillary activities” such as water wells, trucking access roads, “sweetening facilities” that process the oil or gas, chemical and mixing stations and transfer stations, Olson said.

Olson said a special use permit could be developed “to at least let your citizens know what’s coming.”

Cannon Township resident Mary Reusch said she attended the meeting because she and her husband are worried about the possibility of losing the trees in the Cannonsburg State Game Area, which lies next to their home.

“It would break my heart to see those trees come down,” said Reusch, who said her husband walks through the forested area almost daily.

Reusch said she also is worried about the impact “fracking” could have on Meandering Creek, which runs through the 10-acre parcel on which they have lived for the past 13 years.

Cannon Township resident Shirley Kallio said she attended the meeting because a parcel of farmland near her home has been leased for oil and gas exploration.

FLOW leaders also are meeting with citizens in Muskegon County’s Montague Township and Kalkaska this week to discuss similar actions.
Olson, who plans to meet with the group again on June 19, gave the group “homework,” asking them to develop a rational for protecting their resources.

In the greater Grand Rapids area, the only oil and gas well that has permission to “frack” is located in Ionia County’s Ionia Township.

The well, which was drilled last fall on a farm north of I-96 by Texas-based Rosetta Resources, has not yet been “fracked” or completed, according to Bill Mitchell, a geologist with the Department of Environmental Quality.

Video: Jim Olson, Maude Barlow on Public Trust and the Commons at the Rochester, NY Sierra Club 15th Annual Forum

Click here to view the full video

FLOW President and Chair Jim Olson joins international water advocate Maude Barlow at the Rochester, NY Sierra Club’s 15th Annual Environmental Forum on March 25, 2013. To watch the video in full, click here.