Published May 1, 2002 | May 2002 issue
The Michigan Senate passed a controversial bill to ban new drilling for oil and natural gas under Michigan waters of the Great Lakes. The measure prohibits slant drilling under the lakes from wellheads on shore. The Senate version differs from the House version in that it attempts to avoid a possible lawsuit by permitting the existing seven slant wells to continue operations. The bill permanently prohibits the state from issuing drilling leases under the lakes, although the Legislature can reverse itself later.
Opponents argue that Michigan needs the oil and natural gas under the lakes and that there is no scientific reason not to drill wells. Supporters of the ban say although directional drilling probably won't cause pollution, the state doesn't adequately regulate such drilling. Michigan is the only state bordering the Great Lakes that allows companies to drill at an angle under the lakes from onshore points.