The Michigan Department of Environmental Quality (“DEQ”) plans to strengthen its hydraulic fracturing rules by adding provisions to protect water resources and to require additional chemical data submissions. This announcement comes after roughly 200 public meetings held since 2011 and attended by the DEQ. 

Michigan’s current fracturing rules went into effect on June 22, 2011 and require the operator or the service company of a high volume hydraulic fractured (HVHF) well (using more than 100,000 gallons of fracking fluid) to provide:

  1. Material Safety Data Sheets for the chemical additives used, 
  2. the volume of each additive, and 
  3. the records and associated charts showing fracturing volumes, rates, and pressures. 

This information must be submitted to the DEQ within 60 days after completion of the well. The rules also require a water withdrawal plan and information showing the total volume of flowback water generated.

The proposed revisions would add the following requirements:

  • Water withdrawal assessment and monitoring – In the application for a drilling permit, the operator will be required to use the state’s water withdrawal assessment tool. Withdrawal will not be approved if the review indicates that the withdrawal may cause an adverse impact to rivers or streams. Also if there is a water supply within 1,320 feet of a proposed withdrawal, the operator must install a monitor well and report water levels. There will be specifications for water storage pits.
  • Water quality sampling – Oil and gas operators will be required to collect baseline samples from up to 10 water supply wells within 1,320 feet of a proposed withdrawal, six months or less before drilling begins.
  • Monitoring and reporting – Operators will be required to state in the permit application whether HVHF will be used, submit separate applications for HVHF operations on existing wells, notify the DEQ at least 48 hours in advance before starting the process, and monitor and report fluid pressures and volumes for all HVHF operations.
  • Chemical additive disclosures – Operators will be required to submit information regarding HVHF chemical additives on FracFocus.org. The information must include chemical constituents and maximum concentrations. For trade secrets, the chemical family and trade name must be identified.

There will be a period of public comment after Michigan’s rules committee reviews the DEQ’s proposed rules and finalizes a draft. It is anticipated that these new rules will be in place sometime in 2014.

As these new rules are being proposed, the anti-fracking group Ban Michigan Fracking is trying to get more than 258,000 signatures by May 2014 in order to have its initiative on the ballot in November 2014. The Michigan Chamber of Commerce is opposed to the fracking ban and has launched its own campaign to defeat the initiative.


This post was written by Barclay Nicholson (barclay.nicholson@nortonrosefulbright.com or 713.651.3662) from Norton Rose Fulbright’s Energy Practice Group.