HASTINGS, Mich. (WOOD) - About 200 people gathered Tuesday afternoon at the Pierce Cedar Creek Institute in Hastings to learn more about fracking.
Fracking is a drilling process that injects water or chemicals deep into the earth at a high pressure, which fractures shale and releases natural gas and oil.
The meeting was packed. Only pre-registered attendees were allowed in.
One thing was clear: A lot of people are interested.
Oil and gas companies have started to lease private land from landowners with the possibility of drilling -- including fracking.
Records show that there were 81 private leases in Barry County in 2011. Only four months into 2012, there have been 167.
The state will also auction off the mineral rights for public land in 23 counties, including in Barry County, on May 8.
Whoever buys the rights will need to survey the land and then get drilling approval from the Department of Environmental Quality -- a process that could take anywhere from months to decades.
A GVSU economics professor told 24 Hour News 8 in April that the fracking is part of the reason why natural gas costs went down 85% in the last five years.
But the process concerns some environmentalists, who say that it causes groundwater and surface water contamination. Some have also said that fracking might cause earthquakes.
A geologist from the Department of Environmental Quality tried to calm those fears, touting Michigan's tough standards.
"I do believe it's safe for Michigan," Mike Shelton of the DEQ.
Shelton enforces regulations and stands by the state's record.
"12,000 wells have been hydro-fractured in the state of Michigan and none of them have had an incident," he told 24 Hour News 8.
But despite Michigan's tough standards, some people who live in the area still have concerns.
Landowner Doug Lundstrom, who attended the meeting, is on the fence about fracking.
"At this point, we're going to get more info," said Lundstrom.
He said he was worried about the environmental impact.
"That's a big concern because I'm a tree-hugger," said Lundstrom.
Shelton said he understands fears about water contamination, but he said Michigan's regulations are tougher than other states'.
"The track record's good, but you still have to make sure things are done properly," said Shelton.
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