Congress poised to pass ban on oil drilling under Great
By NEDRA PICKLER
Article courtesy of the Associated Press
Nov. 1, 2001
WASHINGTON (AP) -- New oil and gas drilling under the
Great Lakes would be banned for the next two years under
an agreement poised to win approval in Congress.
The measure is aimed at stopping the state of Michigan
from issuing more permits for directional drilling under
the Great Lakes from sites along the shoreline.
Michigan Gov. John Engler has said the drilling can be
done safely, and he strongly objected to the agreement.
His spokeswoman said his administration will examine the
legislation to see if they can stop it from taking effect.
" This amendment sets a terrible precedent, "
Engler said in a statement. " Today, Washington
wants to dictate how Michigan protects the waters of the
Great Lakes. Tomorrow, Washington could well dictate
who gets the water."
Republican and Democratic lawmakers from Michigan and
surrounding states held a news conference Wednesday to
congratulate themselves on the deal. They say an accident
or leak from a well could contaminate their fresh water
" The amount of oil and gas that would come out of
Lake Michigan in my district would be so minimal,
it is not worth the risk, " said Rep. Pete Hoekstra,
Engler will leave office at the end of next year because
of term limits. Lt. Gov. Dick Posthumus, who is running
to replace him, and all the Democratic candidates
have spoken out against new drilling permits.
" There' s a very good likelihood that this two-year
ban will get us to a permanent ban, " said Sen.
Debbie Stabenow, D-Mich., who wrote the provision
into the bill.
The Great Lakes states -- New York, Pennsylvania,
Ohio, Illinois, Michigan, Indiana, Wisconsin
and Minnesota -- do not allow drilling from rigs on the
water. Michigan is the only state that allows directional
drilling to reach deposits under the lake from the shore.
Commercial natural gas drilling on the Canadian side
of Lake Erie has been going on for more than 40 years,
according to Ruby Rybansky, chief engineer at the
Ontario government' s Petroleum Resources Centre.
Some 550 producing gas wells operate on the Canadian
side of the lake, Rybansky has said. Ontario allows
directional drilling between the months of April and October,
when no ice or fierce winter storms prevent drilling barges
from reaching the gas fields.
Michigan stopped issuing new drilling leases in 1997
as critics warned of potential damage to the lakes and
shoreline residents protested, but the Michigan Natural
Resources Commission voted in September to let the state
resume issuing leases.
The drilling ban is part of a spending bill for energy
and water projects. A House-Senate committee included
the Great Lakes drilling ban in the bill, which is
scheduled for a vote in both chambers this week. It is
expected to win easy approval, and President Bush
is expected to sign it into law.
Rep. Mike Rogers, R-Mich., expects to be one
of only a few lawmakers to vote against the provision.
He says the states, not the federal government,
should control the Great Lakes.
" This is a very, very dangerous precedent in
terms of our ownership of the Great Lakes, " he
said. " You are taking away my children' s ownership
of the Great Lakes."
The Energy and Water Appropriations bill is H.R. 2311.
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