Initiative to ban fracking seeks young voters

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By Alexandra Donlin
MI First Election

In November, Michigan residents could be voting on whether or not to ban hydraulic fracturing, also known as fracking.

FrackingAccording to Earth Justice, there are about 12,000 fracking wells in Michigan.

Fracking in general accounts for 49 percent of oil production and 54 percent of natural gas output, according to The Wall Street Journal.

There are many conflicting opinions on the topic, mainly about environmental concerns. Some say fracking is a danger to the environment while others argue it’s safe and creates many jobs.

The initiative is led by the Committee to Ban Fracking in Michigan.

The group primarily works throughout the state trying to get its petitions signed and to persuade people. The petitions are the only way the ban can get on the ballot.

According to the group’s website, the Michigan Legislature requires 252,523 petition signatures for the issue to qualify for the ballot. By April 15, the group had more than 150,000 signatures.

“This is doable, people need to sign up,” said Luanne Kozma, campaign director for the committee. “(We) have to do it ourselves.”

Kozma earned her parks and recreation degree from Michigan State University and then went on to work at the MSU Museum. Her interest in environment is what led her to start working with the committee.

Kozma said that voters can’t sign the petition online, but can and will regularly meet campaign members on the street to sign it.

On a national level, Democratic candidate Bernie Sanders voiced his opposition to fracking. At a Democratic debate in Brooklyn April 14.

“(It’s) interesting on how much it’s been brought into the debates,” said international relations student Courtney Bourgoin.

Opposition to fracking has grown over the years in popularity, Bourgoin said. Notably, Bourgoin says, over the past three election cycles. A lot of this has to do with the help of non-profit organizations.

Word of Faith Int’l Christian Center in Southfield, Michigan, has been criticized the past few months since it announced the potential drilling of oil on its property to raise money for further mission work.

Since the church is in a Metro Detroit city, many neighbors, including the Southfield Mayor Kenson J. Siver, are concerned that the drilling could affect the environment and drinking water.

“We share the same concerns regarding water, disruption the land and gas fumes,” the church said on its blog. “We do not want to see the land that this ministry resides on destroyed. We have invested millions of dollars into the development of this property. We also do not want to destroy the properties of our neighbors either.”

The church is working with Jordan Development Company, which is based out of Traverse City, Michigan.

The company was recently approved for a permit to drill a test well on the church’s property. If oil is found, Jordan will have to apply for another permit to further the drilling.

Though the well will not actually be fracked, the church stands by the Environmental Protection Agency, which say fracking is not hazardous to the environment or human health.

Similarly, Michigan Rep. Aric Nesbitt, R-Lawton, opposes the initiative to ban fracking.

“As chair of the House Subcommittee on Natural Gas, I conducted hearings that discovered that over $6 billion of economic activity and nearly 23,000 jobs are contributed to Michigan’s economy each year by the natural gas industry,” Nesbitt said.

Nesbitt said claims that fracking is dangerous are inaccurate. Most notably, that it contaminates drinking water.

The same EPA study that the church cited failed to find one case where fracking contaminated drinking water.

Being open and honest about energy, while establishing cleaner fuel sources are very important, said Nesbitt.

Kozma said that young people and students need to know that ballot initiatives are a valid process in getting things done. Often times, students will sign the petitions but won’t eventually vote for it when it’s on the ballot.

Overall, Kozma said, the initiative needs more support of young people.

“(This) brings people together to get involved no matter what (political) party they’re a part of,” Kozma said.

The committee is looking for more volunteers to get signatures. For more information, visit its website. If you’re looking to support fracking, head here for more details.

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