Lawmakers OK a hold on Lakes drilling
2-year moratorium praised, attacked
November 2, 2001
BY HUGH MCDIARMID JR.
of the Detroit Free Press
New Great Lakes oil and gas drilling would be banned
for two years under legislation approved Thursday by the
U.S. House of Representatives and the Senate.
The law, passed by the Senate early Thursday evening,
drew bitter criticism from Gov. John Engler and praise
from opponents of lake-bed mineral exploration.
"It means nothing's going to happen for at least two
years, and that's good news," said Keith Schneider, program
director at the Michigan Land Use Institute in Benzonia.
He predicted the federal action -- sponsored by Sen.
Debbie Stabenow, D-Mich. -- would energize efforts to
impose a state ban on new lakes drilling. Michigan lawmakers
may vote on that proposal next month.
Support for a state ban has grown even as the Engler-led
Department of Natural Resources takes applications from
companies who want to lease bottomlands for drilling.
"I think Michigan has turned a corner on valuing its
natural resources," Schneider said. "I don't think the
state Legislature wants to be upstaged by Congress."
The federal rule requires a study of the environmental
impact of drilling by the Army Corps of Engineers during
the two-year moratorium.
Engler lashed out at the federal action as an unwarranted
intrusion into state matters.
"Today, Washington wants to dictate how Michigan protects
the waters of the Great Lakes. Tomorrow, Washington could
well dictate who gets the water," Engler said in a press
release. Great Lakes water already is protected
from diversion by a multistate compact authorized by Congress,
said Dave Lemmon, communications director for Stabenow.
He said the federal government has a role in the drilling
issue because it involves interstate transport -- both
of the water that moves among Great Lakes states and potential
pollution that could affect multiple states.
"But it's important to keep an eye on the fact that
Michigan is the only one of eight Great Lakes states that
allows drilling," Lemmon said.
Seven slant wells now pipe oil and gas from underneath
the Lakes to pumps on shore.