Governor Rick Snyder unveiled a new energy policy Wednesday, including a call for ramped-up natural gas production. He says a booming gas industry will help make Michigan more efficient and likely drive rates down.
"How can we be more strategic instead of simply saying we have a bunch of natural gas, how can we actually make it work for us," Snyder said.
Snyder believes the state can capitalize on its resources safely. He is proposing a "Strategic Natural Gas Reserve" where the state would take ownership of the gas produced by private companies on state-owned land, rather than its share of the money they make.
"These are good things that could help bring rates down," Snyder added.
"What's left unanswered is how that's going to be done," Anne Woiwode, with the Sierra Club, said. "How are we going to make sure that Michigan doesn't face gas natural gas contamination issues."
Environmental groups are particularly concered about fracking, a method of extracting natural gas by pumping water, sand and chemicals deep underground.
They point to problems in other states pursing a natural gas industry, including contaminated water, explosions, even fracking-related earthquakes.
"There's an assumption that Michigan will not have the same problems and I don't think that's a safe assumption," Wiowode said.
The governor agrees the state should look at fracking more closely, but defends the process. He says here in Michigan, state rules have kept it safe for more than 60 years.
"Michigan in many respects is a role model for how fracking can work in a constructive way, we've never had a serious issue in Michigan and we frack thousands and thousands of wells," Snyder added.
The Sierra Club wants a broader approach, wind, solar and gas.
"How do we solve our energy issues in the cleanest way possible is the question we still think needs to be answered, not picking one technology," Wiowode said.
The governor says renewables are important and should be developed, but wasn't willing to name a higher goal for the state, at least not yet.
Snyder says Michigan is on track for companies to produce at least 10 percent of their power from renewables by 2015, as the law requires. He wants to see what other states do and have his administration dig a little deeper before making a recommendation.
The governor hopes to have that analysis complete by next year and a new goal by 2014 or 2015.