natural gas

The natural gas industry tells us that using natural gas is environmentally friendly. The industry says natural gas has fewer impurities than coal, and tells us its combustion yields mostly carbon dioxide and water vapor, so there’s less pollution.

But the main ingredient of natural gas is methane. And methane is one of the biggest contributors to climate change.

That’s why University of Michigan public policy assistant professor Catherine Hausman said we need to be concerned about what happens to the environment when methane leaks.

She also believes the utilities have little incentive to plug natural gas leaks. She recently wrote about the issue in an article at TheConversation.com and she joined Stateside to talk more about it. 


New pipelines are good for energy companies, but they often disturb private property. The Nexus pipeline would run 250 miles from gas wells in southeast Ohio to Michigan and Canada. Julie Grant reports it’s drawing opposition from landowners concerned about their safety and property rights.

This week, a Cheboygan District Court Judge ruled that Chesapeake Energy will go to trial for alleged fraud.

Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette has accused the Oklahoma-based energy company of swindling landowners in northern Michigan.

Peter Payette is with our partners at Interlochen Public Radio and he has been covering this story.

How did all of this start?

Around May of 2010, the state auctioned off the right to drill for oil and gas on public land.

"And that auction saw prices that were astronomical. The state in one day raised as much money from the sale of oil and gas rights as it had raised in its entire history," Payette says. "And that's because out-of-state companies believed that by using these newer methods of horizontal hydraulic fracturing that they could make a lot of money by drilling deep down in the ground and taking out natural gas."

These companies went out to private landowners that summer and asked to explore their properties for oil and gas. The landowners signed leases. "And those promised what is called a 'order of payment' and in many cases the landowners did not receive payment and may say they were cheated and are owed money," Payette says.

State officials want to hear what you think about fracking.

The Michigan Department of Environmental Quality wants to update the state’s rules on hydraulic fracturing. The DEQ is holding two public hearings this week on the proposed changes.

Hal Fitch is the chief of the DEQ’s Office of Oil, Gas and Minerals.

“Starting about 2008, we started hearing increased public concerns. So we met with the environmental community, we met with the public in over 200 different forums and heard those concerns and formulated these rules based on what we were hearing,” he says.

New legislation in Lansing would make it easier for utilities to expand access to natural gas in rural Michigan.

A state House panel will hold a hearing on the bills Tuesday.

Supporters hope it will help people keep the heat on during the cold winter months. A number of Michigan communities faced propane shortages during this past winter.

Chesapeake Litigation

Jan 6, 2012

Last month attorneys suing one of the nation's largest energy companies had their first victory in a long line of cases related to hydrofracking in Michigan. Two years ago land owners across the region were receiving record sums of money in exchange for the right to drill for oil and gas in a deep shale formation that had been untouched until then. But more than 100 landowners now say they were cheated when Chesapeake Energy walked away from their agreements.

Last May, oil and gas companies spent of hundreds-of-millions of dollars buying up rights to drill in Michigan. By summer, private landowners in northern Michigan had signed leases promising record payments to drill for their minerals.

But by the end of the year, the frenzy over the new gas play had fizzled, and hundreds of people were claiming they'd been cheated. Lawsuits now say gas developers didn't just break their word, but they allegedly engaged in fraud and conspiracy to manipulate the market.