Senate Hangs No Drilling Sign Along Lakeshore

May 16, 2002
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LANSING - After calling the Great Lakes a binational public treasure, the Michigan Senate passed its version of House Bill 5118 and banned future leases for directional drilling under those treasures -- a move that drew resounding applause from environmental groups and Lt. Gov. Dick Posthumus.

"The Great Lakes are unique to our state, and I believe that we have a moral responsibility to protect them," said Posthumus, who called for a ban in July 2001.

"Directional drilling is certainly not the biggest threat to our water - invasive species, our aging sewer and septic infrastructure and thirsty Washington politicians are much larger challenges we face," he added. "But banning future drilling under the Great Lakes is a major step forward as we work to preserve our water resources for future generations."

Cyndi Roper, Michigan director of Clean Water Action, felt the time for this action had arrived.

"The current administration has for too long neglected the issue of long-term protection of the Great Lakes and our water resources," said Cyndi Roper, Michigan director of Clean Water Action. "This is the first sign that the legislature wants to reverse that trend."

The Senate version only allows for drilling if the operation began or the lease was in effect before the bill was passed. A violation would result in a fine triple the amount of the materials taken from a lake, plus the cost to restore the water, bottomlands, adjacent uplands or any natural resource of a lake.

West Michigan senators Bill Schuette, Ken Sikkema, Leon Stille and Bill VanRegenmorter voted for the ban, while senators Glenn Steil and Joanne Emmons abstained. The Senate approved its measure by a 28 to 5 margin.

The House and Senate now have to reconcile the differences between the two versions before the bill can move on to the governor's office for his signature. The House passed its bill on a vote of 98 to 7.

The Lake Michigan Federation, West Michigan Environmental Action Council, Michigan Land Use Institute, and PIRGIM joined Clean Water Action in supporting the ban. These groups will now turn their attention to having the legislature take a hard look at sewage overflow, sand dune protection and water withdrawal legislation.

"Environmental and public health organizations are also trying to educate the public that they can't have it both ways," said James Clift, Michigan Environmental Council policy director. "If we want sensitive natural resources off limits to development, we also have to reduce our use of fossil fuels."

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