Permitting fracking wells

Asked April 23, 2013, 10:45 PM EDT

I understand that when a company applies to frack a well they state the amount of water they intend to use and that they use a type of evaluation tool that determines whether that volume of water will be a concern to the water table or aquifer. But I also understand that the gas and oil industries are exempt from the portion of the Great Lakes Compact that limits large water withdrawals. Is there in fact any LAW that in fact limits how much water a fracking operation can use? Can the permit be denied if the evaluation tool says they are using more than they should? If it is denied, can the company appeal it and if so to whom do they appeal, a court or someone in the DNR/DEQ? Or do they just have to fill in the permit application and then use whatever volume they want without any consequences. If there are consequences for using more than the permit allows, what are they?

Alcona County Michigan

1 Response

The evaluation tool you mention in your question is called the Michigan Water Withdrawal Assessment Tool, miwwat.org. Every new water user that will use more than 100,000 gallons per day must use this tool before they can receive a permit to drill a water well. It is the same on-line tool that potential irrigators, or any other potential commercial user must use to determine if the well they are considering will not harm existing users. If the tool determines a potential conflict, anyone that uses the tool can request an on-site review. If the on-site review determines that the well will not cause harm, the permit can be granted. If the on-site review determines interference will occur, the water well drilling permit will not be issued. The oil and gas industry is not exempt from the requirement to use this tool and there is no law to my knowledge that exempts them. If the proposed well is determined to cause a conflict with existing water uses, the oil and gas company will have to find an alternative source of water. For example, they can purchase the gallons they need from local farmers or buy it from municipalities and haul it to the well site.