Shale Development Benefits All of Michigan’s Citizens

A recent article touting the benefits of shale gas development calls to mind Michigan’s Natural Resource Trust Fund and the corresponding State Parks Endowment Fund.  These programs demonstrate an important point: Michigan’s Funds are designed to benefit all of its residents, not just those who own mineral rights.

Established in 1976, the Natural Resources Fund was originally created to acquire lands for “resource protection and public outdoor recreation.”   In fact, since 1976, almost one billion dollars has been dispersed from the Fund to projects in all 83 of Michigan’s counties.  Some of the top recipients are listed below.

Keewana Co.                    $21,295,000

Washtenaw Co.                 $24,301,000

Cheyboygan Co.               $26,316,000

Kent Co.                           $26,892,000

Allegan Co.                       $28,191,000

Ottawa Co.                       $34,054,000

Grand Traverse Co.           $39,742,000

Oakland Co.                      $77,283,000

Wayne Co.                        $89,539,000

 “Various”                         $182,396,000

It has proven to be incredibly successful, so much so that in 2011 the Fund reached its $500 million cap.  Since reaching its cap, the revenue received has been diverted into the State Parks Endowment Fund, which is used exclusively for the operations, maintenance, capital improvements, and acquisition of property for Michigan’s State Parks. The successes of these Funds have evoked envy from other states who wish that they had done the same thing when their resources were being developed. This is a testament to the forward thinking of our legislators and the oil and gas industry.

What may be surprising for some to learn is that the Natural Resources Fund was supported entirely by the oil and gas industry.  Furthermore, in 2010, the potential use of hydraulic fracturing drove demand for State leases, bringing in more than $170 million. Yes, the often demonized process that’s falsely blamed for environmental disasters was responsible for the Natural Resources Fund reaching its cap and now supports all of Michigan’s State Parks.

Unfortunately, there are those who would effectively end this windfall for the State through their pursuit of banning hydraulic fracturing. Given the benefit now accruing to our state parks, the citizens of this state should not settle for baseless claims and misinformation about the safety record of hydraulic fracturing.

Of course there are some activists, such as the League of Conservation Voters, who appear to want it both ways, loving the benefits of the Funds, while attacking the way in which the revenue was acquired for the Funds.

Let’s just hope the next time people see a petition to “ban fracking,” they take a good look at the safety record of hydraulic fracturing and the many public benefits they’re already receiving from prospective and ongoing shale development.

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