*Update* Responsible Shale Development? That’s Pure Michigan.

Update (11:01 a.m. ET; May 2) — Good timing on this Michigan post, it appears. Earlier this morning, ABC News Channel 8 in Hastings, Mich. (an hour west of Lansing) ran a great piece in which DEQ geologist Mike Shelton was quoted. According to Mr. Shelton: “I do believe {hydraulic fracturing} is safe for Michigan. 12,000 wells have been hydro-fractured in the state of Michigan and none of them have had an incident.” An economics professor from Grand Valley State University also spoke to ABC, noting that hydraulic fracturing is a big part of why natural gas costs went down a full 85% for consumers in the last five years. Full clip here.

Since Henry Ford introduced the world to the industrial assembly line in 1903, Detroit and Michigan have been synonymous with American manufacturing.  Even today, on the tail-end of a long slide, the state’s manufacturing sector employs 498,000 workers, accounts for 12.7 percent of the state’s employment, and generates 21 percent of the state’s GDP. Those are real numbers.

So with good news popping up all around about the enormous economic impact that American energy development is having on U.S. manufacturers (remember that 98 percent of all manufactured products use natural gas in their production), it is no surprise that the state known most for its cars, trucks, and workforce is also no stranger to shale.

Indeed, although most official histories identify the Barnett in Texas as the first major shale play to come online in the late 1990s, truth is, the real honor lies with Michigan’s Antrim Shale, which producers first started developing in the 1940s.

And according to a recent report produced by Michigan’s House of Representatives, the potential for new energy development in the state to translate into jobs, revenue and opportunity for Michigan residents is real. As the report’s lead author —  Subcommittee Chairman Aric Nesbitt — told E&E News,

“Our hearings and visits throughout the state have shown us that natural gas is vital to Michigan’s economy…The growth of natural gas means more energy independence and high-wage jobs.

“Michigan has some of the safest and most effective regulations in the nation, and we should work to maintain those so we can increase energy independence and create and better jobs in a safe and responsible manner.”

As the report explains, Michigan began developing oil and gas from the Antrim more than 60 years ago – a trend that extends east to west (from Alpena to Manistee) across the northern part of the lower peninsula of Michigan. Investment in the play really took off, though, in the 1980s — and today, as operators explore the viability of what’s known as the Collingwood-Utica formation, Michigan has safely developed nearly 12,000 natural gas wells.

And as the state developed its natural resources, Michigan’s regulatory system continued to keep pace, leading the nation in developing some of the strongest regulations for oil and natural gas development. From the report:

“Michigan is fortunate to have a long history of development in shale formations as our regulatory structure and industry have continuously balanced production with environmental stewardship…Michigan has led the nation in developing regulations for oil and gas exploration that continue to be modernized to ensure safe development of Michigan’s natural resources.

“In Michigan, the DEQ has not found any cases where well stimulation in either vertical or horizontal wells has caused adverse impacts to the environment or public health.” (p.6)

From supporting Michigan’s extensive manufacturing base, to providing over 8,000 direct jobs and supporting over 23,000 in the state, natural gas production is providing the state with safe, clean, and affordable energy for many years to come.  In fact, estimates from the Department of Energy, increased domestic natural gas use could provide Michigan families with $2,400 in annual cost savings from lower energy price. That’s $2,400 for each and every family in Michigan:

“Providing access to safe and cost-effective natural gas can provide this needed relief {to Michigan families}…These savings are real dollars that our state’s struggling resident can use in these tough economic times.”

Nearly 80 percent of all households in Michigan rely on natural gas for home and space heating. And at the same time, Michigan has more natural gas storage capacity that any other state in the U.S. Combined with extensive natural gas reserves and exciting estimates coming out of the Collingwood, Michigan is endowed with the capacity to produce, transport, consume and store an abundant quantity of clean and reliable natural gas.

As an Encana spokesman told the Detroit News last week, “We’re encouraged. We want to look at coming back to Michigan.” That’s good news for the state – and even better news for our country. Welcome back, Michigan.


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