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Unexpected Wild Places at Risk From Oil Drilling
When we think of sensitive ecosystems at risk from oil and gas drilling, the Great Lakes probably aren't high on the list. But NWF's Great Lakes Natural Resource Center has been working hard to protect the lakes from "directional" drilling, in which a well is drilled vertically onshore and then angled underneath the water.
Despite strong opposition from NWF and other environmental and citizens groups, Michigan officials recently lifted a four-year-old moratorium on leases for drilling under the lakes, paving the way for up to 30 new wells to be drilled along the coastlines of Lake Michigan and Lake Huron. Congress responded in November by enacting a federal ban that prohibits the states from allowing further directional drilling for two years while the Army Corps of Engineers studies its environmental impact.
NWF will now try to persuade the Michigan legislature to reinforce the congressional action by restoring the state moratorium, originally imposed in 1997 because of public concern about the risks of drilling. At that time, Michigan already had permitted ten oil and gas wells to be directionally drilled beneath Lake Michigan and three under Lake Huron. Seven of those thirteen still are operating.
NWF maintains that no drilling should take place until the state implements all recommendations made by a scientific panel for reducing the negative impacts of drilling. "It is shortsighted to risk a treasure such as the Great Lakes without solid evidence that the quantity of oil or gas to be recovered would actually benefit the public," says Tim Eder, director of NWF's Great Lakes center. "And it is …