Letters 10-24-2016

It’s Obama’s 1984 Several editions ago I concluded a short letter to the editor with an ominous rhetorical flourish: “Welcome to George Orwell’s 1984 and the grand opening of the Federal Department of Truth!” At the time I am sure most of the readers laughed off my comments as right-wing hyperbole. Shame on you for doubting me...

Gun Bans Don’t Work It is said that mass violence only happens in the USA. A lone gunman in a rubber boat, drifted ashore at a popular resort in Tunisia and randomly shot and killed 38 mostly British and Irish tourists. Tunisian gun laws, which are among the most restrictive in the world, didn’t stop this mass slaughter. And in January 2015, two armed men killed 11 and wounded 11 others in an attack on the French satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo. French gun laws didn’t stop these assassins...

Scripps’ Good Deed No good deed shall go unpunished! When Dan Scripps was the 101st District State Representative, he introduced legislation to prevent corporations from contaminating (e.g. fracking) or depleting (e.g. Nestle) Michigan’s water table for corporate profit. There are no property lines in the water table, and many of us depend on private wells for abundant, safe, clean water. In the subsequent election, Dan’s opponents ran a negative campaign almost solely on the misrepresentation that Dan’s good deed was a government takeover of your private water well...

Political Definitions As the time to vote draws near it’s a good time to check into what you stand for. According to Dictionary.com the meanings for liberal and conservative are as follows:

Liberal: Favorable to progress or reform as in political or religious affairs.

Conservative: Disposed to preserve existing conditions, institutions, etc., or to restore traditions and limit change...

Voting Takes A Month? Hurricane Matthew hit the Florida coast Oct. 6, over three weeks before Election Day. Bob Ross (Oct. 17th issue) posits that perhaps evacuation orders from Governor Scott may have had political motivations to diminish turnout and seems to praise Hillary Clinton’s call for Gov. Scott to extend Florida’s voter registration deadline due to evacuations...

Clinton Foundation Facts Does the Clinton Foundation really spend a mere 10 percent (per Mike Pence) or 20 percent (per Reince Priebus) of its money on charity? Not true. Charity Watch gives it an A rating (the same as it gives the NRA Foundation) and says it spends 88 percent on charitable causes, and 12 percent on overhead. Here is the source of the misunderstanding: The Foundation does give only a small percentage of its money to charitable organizations, but it spends far more money directly running a number of programs...

America Needs Change Trump supports our constitution, will appoint judges that will keep our freedoms safe. He supports the partial-birth ban; Hillary voted against it. Regardless of how you feel about Trump, critical issues are at stake. Trump will increase national security, monitor refugee admissions, endorse our vital military forces while fighting ISIS. Vice-presidential candidate Mike Pence will be an intelligent asset for the country. Hillary wants open borders, increased government regulation, and more demilitarization at a time when we need strong military defenses...

My Process For No I will be voting “no” on Prop 3 because I am supportive of the process that is in place to review and approve developments. I was on the Traverse City Planning Commission in the 1990s and gained an appreciation for all of the work that goes into a review. The staff reviews the project and makes a recommendation. The developer then makes a presentation, and fellow commissioners and the public can ask questions and make comments. By the end of the process, I knew how to vote for a project, up or down. This process then repeats itself at the City Commission...

Regarding Your Postcard If you received a “Vote No” postcard from StandUp TC, don’t believe their lies. Prop 3 is not illegal. It won’t cost city taxpayers thousands of dollars in legal bills or special elections. Prop 3 is about protecting our downtown -- not Munson, NMC or the Commons -- from a future of ugly skyscrapers that will diminish the very character of our downtown...

Vote Yes It has been suggested that a recall or re-election of current city staff and Traverse City Commission would work better than Prop 3. I disagree. A recall campaign is the most divisive, costly type of election possible. Prop 3, when passed, will allow all city residents an opportunity to vote on any proposed development over 60 feet tall at no cost to the taxpayer...

Yes Vote Explained A “yes” vote on Prop 3 will give Traverse City the right to vote on developments over 60 feet high. It doesn’t require votes on every future building, as incorrectly stated by a previous letter writer. If referendums are held during general elections, taxpayers pay nothing...

Beware Trump When the country you love have have served for 33 years is threatened, you have an obligation and a duty to speak out. Now is the time for all Americans to speak out against a possible Donald Trump presidency. During the past year Trump has been exposed as a pathological liar, a demagogue and a person who is totally unfit to assume the presidency of our already great country...

Picture Worth 1,000 Words Nobody disagrees with the need for affordable housing or that a certain level of density is dollar smart for TC. The issue is the proposed solution. If you haven’t already seen the architect’s rendition for the site, please Google “Pine Street Development Traverse City”...

Living Wage, Not Tall Buildings Our community deserves better than the StandUp TC “vote no” arguments. They are not truthful. Their yard signs say: “More Housing. Less Red Tape. Vote like you want your kids to live here.” The truth: More housing, but for whom? At what price..

Home · Articles · News · Features · Nothing to See Here, Folks
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Nothing to See Here, Folks

State says counties and townships have no say over fracking waste disposal

Patrick Sullivan - March 18th, 2013  

Residents of Mayfield Township near Kingsley got creative a few years ago when they learned of a proposal to inject liquid industrial waste into a disposal well located in a field near the corner of of M-37 and M-113.

The well had been approved to take brine from oil wells, but many area residents didn’t want industrial waste from a landfill pumped deep underground, below their houses and farm fields.

Phil Scott, chairman of the Mayfield Township planning commission, said the township consulted attorneys and experts and found a way to wrest some control over what happened at the well from state and federal regulators.

The township enacted an ordinance to require a special use permit for the disposal of industrial waste and amid public opposition, the owner of the well, Team Solutions of Kalkaska, backed off plans to dispose liquid waste from the shuttered Glen’s Landfill at the site.

Fast-forward a couple of years and now a different kind of waste -- flowback fluid from deep-shale hydrological fracking -- is being pumped into the well, and this time, state officials say there is nothing locals can do about it.


There’s no local control because Part 615 of Michigan’s Natural Resources and Environmental Protection Act, as well as the state law that enables local zoning, both specifically exempt oil and gas operations from township or county control, said Rick Henderson, field operations supervisor for the DEQ’s Office of Oil, Gas & Minerals.

In addition, Henderson said, injection disposal wells are safe and well-regulated by the state and locals should not be worried about leaks or contamination.

Christopher Grobbel, of Grobbel Environmental & Planning Associates, who helped Mayfield Township design its ordinance to regulate industrial waste, disagrees on both counts.

Grobbel believes it’s an open question whether local governments can have a say in oil and gas operations.

“There’s a strong argument there because they don’t even know what’s in that stuff,” Grobbel said, referring to fracking waste. “I think it’s a pretty elementary reading of the regulation to say that local governments are completely boxed out.”

It’s a question that’s also come up in townships where natural gas drilling causes frequent heavy truck traffic that crumbles roads. Do townships have any means to get drillers to pay for damage they cause on the roads? Grobbel said he’s working with a township in Ogemaw County grappling with exactly that question.

Grobbel said he also believes state regulators downplay the environmental dangers endemic to deep injection wells. He points to a smoking gun -- the state has refused to keep a public, central database of oil and gas contamination available since 1995.


Scott says locals have watched in the past year or so as activity at the Mayfield Township disposal well has ramped up.

He said Mayfield Township receives the bulk of the fracking waste produced in the region -- and that’s a lot of it. At least one of the fracking wells in Kalkaska County has used around 21 million gallons of fresh water to frack, three times as much as is commonly used. Around a third of what’s used comes back as waste.

The lack of input from township and questions about what’s in the fracking waste have upset some residents, Scott said. State and federal law enables natural gas drillers to keep secret the chemicals they include in fracking fluid.

“There are chemicals that go into fracking, so you have really no idea what’s being put in that well, and that well’s really not that deep,” Scott said. He said the well is 1,725 feet deep. “People are concerned, obviously.”

Henderson said much of the waste from the Encana Corporation wells in Kalkaska goes to Mayfield Township and another disposal well in Kalkaska County.

But he said Encana has disclosed the kind of chemicals it’s using -- fracking fluid is over 99.5 percent water and sand, plus around a half percent chemicals -- and regulators have a good idea what’s going into the ground.

“We know the classes of materials that goes into it,” Henderson said. “Encana is not keeping anything secret.”

Further, he said, state and federal regulators make sure disposal wells like the one in Mayfield Township regularly pass mechanical integrity tests. The wells are checked for leaks, there is secondary containment around the well, and, in Mayfield Township, there are monitoring wells around the site to test groundwater.

“If there is a spill or anything, we can detect it long before it gets away,” Henderson said.


Of course the DEQ and the industry say disposal wells are safe, Grobbel said.

“That’s been the DEQ and the industry line for decades,” he said. “We know there are contamination sites associated with oil and gas. There are hundreds and hundreds.”

He said the state, under pressure from the oil and gas industry, stopped keeping a list of contaminated sites in 1995. Grobbel said he only hears about oil and gas contamination when he is called in by a landowner who needs to sue the state to get a site cleaned up or he hears about it anecdotally.

Hal Fitch, the DEQ’s supervisor of wells, said the state keeps decentralized records of contamination sites that he agreed were not easy for the public to access. He said the state has tentative plans to create a central database in the interest of transparency.

Grobbel said when Henderson and other state officials talk about the safety of disposal wells, they focus on the safety of the actual well head. But most of the contamination happens elsewhere in the work stream, he said -- in the pipeline or at the holding containers or during loading.

Much of the threat comes from human error, not the integrity of the well, he said.

To illustrate the point, Grobbel noted the Mayfield Township well has failed in the past.

Around a decade ago, he said, a plume of brine chloride from the well was discovered in area groundwater.

Henderson said test wells were installed in the area to monitor groundwater as a result of that breach.


At this point, it appears unlikely Mayfield Township has the appetite to fight the fracking waste disposal.

With the passage of the ordinance that required a special use permit for industrial waste, officials thought they had found a way to oversee disposal wells without going to court.

And now it appears it would take a court fight to challenge fracking fluid disposal.

Scott said it was a desire to stay out of court that caused the township to pass the industrial waste ordinance in the first place. They had watched as the Friends of the Jordan spent hundreds of thousands of dollars in a lawsuit to fight a disposal well near Alba.

“We don’t have that kind of money; we don’t have those kind of resources by any stretch of the imagination,” Scott said.

Despite the fracking waste, Scott said he is pleased at least the township was able to regulate industrial waste.

Since the passage of that, Scott said he’s been contacted by officials from several townships, including in Grand Traverse and Leelanau counties and downstate, who are interested in the ordinance.

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06.17.2013 at 01:53 Reply

As per usual, follow the money! As a 31 year State of Michigan employee who started out in the Construction Grants Program which funds Sewer and Wastewater Treatment Plant construction, and ended with a Water Bureau Supervisor Jon E. Russell fabricating a complaint against his most experienced Inspector, I know just how corrupt the Michigan DEQ is. The DEQ routinely violates Equal Opportunity Hiring Laws to staff their ranks with Yes Men and Women who got their jobs because of their rich white family connections (ie, welfare for the wealthy) Individual employees who have integrity and fight bad decisions by management are harassed without mercy. In the end the wealthy get wealthier and regular Joes are left to pay the bill.


The Oil Exploration Companies will run roughshod over any landowner who doesn't accept the money that they throw at the owners whos property is raped and contaminated. I was evicted from my 205 acre farm in Adrian Michigan even though the MacArthur-Ruesink Trust which was formed in 2004 is supposed to be "revocable by mutual agreement only". My former husband had abandoned the property, and had provided less than 20% of the farm support over 9 years, so where is the $600000 I invested gone? Right into the pockets of the Ruesink LLC whos members never contributed a penny. They even seized/stole mt welsh pony herd (27 animals) all my farm equipment and family antiques and auctioned them off, complements of corrupt Lenawee County Judge Margaret M.S. Noe.