“For a successful technology, reality must take precedence over public relations, for nature cannot be fooled.” – Richard Feynman
As a non-partisan policy and education center focused on protecting the Great Lakes, FLOW undertakes projects and programs based on the demonstrated reality of problems needing resolution. Unequivocally, FLOW’s mission and sole motivation is to protect our common fresh water resources from permanent harm through education and empowerment of leaders and citizens.
Recently in several online articles, FLOW was misrepresented as an “anti-fracking” “advocacy” group. We were painted as “environmentalists” possessed by an ulterior motive to obstruct the existence of the oil and gas industry, writ large, through “backdoor” practices.
We would like to clarify for the public record that these characterizations are neither true nor reasonable. Rather, our program for local governments to address fracking impacts is an apolitical and pragmatic solution for communities who approach FLOW and voluntarily participate in the program. Our approach is based on factual information regarding the potential risks of fracking and oil and gas development, and what local governments can and cannot do. It is then up to local communities and citizens to identify their local concerns and implement the legal tools and ordinances that address those concerns.
Our method is to work transparently and in direct participation with citizens and officials involved in the issue and solution. This democratic, participatory approach to problem-solving is why we pursue both policy and education as a means of protecting the public interest and maintaining the quality and quantity of our public common waters.
Our program to address local impacts of fracking derives from our thorough and intensive legal analysis report on the topic. FLOW was prompted to investigate the impacts of fracking as it relates to freshwater consumption in the unconventional horizontal (also known as high-volume) fracking process, which in Michigan uses unprecedented volumes of water (more than 21 million gallons per frack well).
The water-intensive horizontal fracking technology we’re seeing proliferate throughout the U.S. is occurring in a vacuum of federal and state regulations, and the industry is exempt from several key water, air, land, and public health protections.
In the spirit of Feynman, we echo the sentiment that, in regards to this particular fracking technology, “reality must take precedence over public relations, for nature cannot be fooled.” FLOW’s intention is to address the reality of fracking impacts as they affect nature and human health in our communities. Despite the fallacious clamoring from some sources that say we are advocates, Luddites, or otherwise in denial of modernity, we at FLOW are – and will remain to be – nonpartisan nonprofit consultants working to protect the public interest of our Great Lakes water.
The concern of FLOW with Fracking is commendable and obviously unavoidable. However what is lacking is an emphasis on future ramifications for the environment if this “unconventional” removal of fossil fuels continues. As long as we remain focused only on present, local impacts, fracking can be made to appear “safe” through better “regulations”. Fracking may
occur locally, but it is a universal hazard. To reduce it to localities makes it vulnerable to succumbing to politicization which is what FLOW contends it is trying to avoid.
Thank you for your thoughtful response. We at FLOW recognize that our local government ordinance program is not the panacea, but it does empower local governments to address the impacts of fracking in their community in light of the vacuum of state and federal regulations of this process. Its aim, like the rest of FLOW’s programs, is to educate and galvanize meaningful action around such an important issue. FLOW is also working on addressing fracking at the state government level in Michigan, including addressing state land leasing, and we anticipate commenting on the forthcoming DEQ rules regarding fracking.
Most important to highlight is FLOW’s focus on the nexus – that is the intersection of water with climate change, energy, and agriculture. Our other programs address “unconventional” extreme energy development, its transport, and the overall threats these pose to the Great Lakes. This includes our work on the Enbridge Line 5 oil pipeline in the Straits of Mackinac, the Alberta Clipper pipeline, oil barges and shipments across the Great Lakes, and the Michigan Governor’s energy plan and the role of renewable energy in Michigan’s future.