Townhall held to discuss fracking in Mid-Michigan - WNEM TV 5

Townhall held to discuss fracking in Mid-Michigan

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Fracking is a controversial issue.  Oil and natural gas companies have approached Mid-Michigan landowners about acquiring land leases to potentially drill for oil and gas.  On Wednesday night, the Nepassing Sierra Club, which is against the practice, held a townhall to discuss potential hazards of fracking.

Chris Muto owns farmland near Columbiaville in Lapeer County.  He said in November, he was approached by a company about leasing his land for oil and natural gas exploration.

"I'm not against it. A lot of people don't like. But I think if they can do it, and it brings more money into the area, more power to them," said Muto.

At least one company is going door-to-door in parts of Genesee and Lapeer Counties asking people to lease their mineral rights.  They've offered Muto $5 per acre per year over the next five years to do some exploratory drilling.

"I think they come into town, and they leave just as quick," said Muto.

While Muto doesn't have a problem with it, Dr. Christopher Grobbel, a Michigan State University expert on fracking, said there is real reason for concern.

"The first thing I want to debunk is there's not risk involved.  There is," said Grobbel.

More than 100 people packed the Columbiaville Community Center to hear a presentation about the process used to get to the black gold.  It's called hydraulic fracturing, or fracking for short, and it's been around for a while.  Companies drill thousands of feet into the ground and drop chemicals to bust up rock to extract the oil and gas.

"We really don't know the long-term effect. What's it going to be in 50, 100 years from now?" asked Leo Dorr, who owns land in Lapeer County.

Opponents of fracking are concerned about groundwater contamination. But oil and gas companies claim there's not much of a risk if it's done right.

"I know it exists. I know it's been around for a very long time. But it's just not healthy," said Dorr.

"They've drilled for oil around this area forever.  They did test wells around this area here, and nothing, nothing," said Muto.

There is no time table on when potential drilling could take place, if it does in fact take place.  But on Wednesday night, Grobbel told the people in attendance local communities can put ordinances in place if they're against fracking.  He also warned landowners to keep a close eye on contracts presented by oil and gas companies and urged them to hire a lawyer before they sign on the dotted line.

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