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Michigan Citizens Agree: Oil and Water Don't Mix.

August 28, 2001 - Results released today from a statewide poll commissioned by the League of Conservation Voters Education Fund paint a clear picture of how Michigan residents feel about drilling for oil under our Great Lakes.

"Michiganders simply don't want to see more drilling, more development along the coastline or anything that poses increased risks for the Great Lakes," said Lisa Wozniak, LCVEF Great Lakes Regional Director. "With such a tiny amount of oil and gas and such a unique and critical resource to protect, the public just doesn't buy into more drilling under the Great Lakes."

Others point to the importance of the lakes in our lives as reason for this strong public ethic against increased drilling under the Great Lakes. "Michigan's culture and economy is built on these lakes," said Tanya Cabala of the Lake Michigan Federation. "There is just no excuse for endangering our fabulous Lake Michigan coastline with more oil derricks and industrial development. The value of our pristine lakeshore simply dwarfs the value of the miniscule amount of oil that might be sucked out from underneath the lake."

Great Lakes drilling is currently under review at the state Department of Natural Resources and despite broad public opposition, Governor Engler has proposed moving forward with granting new drilling permits for wells under the Great Lakes. "The Governor is arguing that new drilling permits won't endanger the Great Lakes. However, local governments and community groups understand that just one oil leak or release of hydrogen sulfide gas could send residents or tourists to the hospital, damaging fragile coastal resources and jeopardize local economies," said James Clift, Policy Director of the Michigan Environmental Council.

"The poll released today shows that Michigan voters are deeply concerned about Great Lakes drilling and they are willing to back that concern up with their vote," said Lisa Wozniak, LCVEF Great Lakes regional director. "In fact, we already see candidates lining up and positioning themselves on this issue for next fall - clean air, clean water and respect for the outdoors are fundamental Michigan values and these results just underscore the importance of these values."

The League of Conservation Voters Education Fund is a nonprofit, nonpartisan 501(c)(3) organization dedicated to raising awareness about environmental issues, increasing the capacity and effectiveness of state and local environmental groups, and encouraging citizens to participate in the democratic process. For more information, visit


"Oil and Water Don't Mix" continued:

Statewide poll results

1. Voters rank clean air and water as one of the most important issues facing the state, second only to education. On a scale ranging from 0 to 10, fully 40 percent of Michigan voters rate their level of concern about clean air and water as a "10."

2. The results of our recent statewide survey show that Michigan voters are strongly opposed to oil drilling under the Great Lakes. As a general principle, voters oppose drilling for oil and gas underneath the Great Lakes, and they offer clear support for continuing the state moratorium that prevents any new directional drilling from taking place. In addition, when offered arguments on both side of the issue, a clear majority of Michigan voters favor a complete ban on drilling for oil and gas underneath the Great Lakes.

3. As an introductory question, survey respondents were asked whether they would "be in favor of or opposed to increased drilling for oil and gas under the Great Lakes." Sixty-one percent of Michigan voters oppose oil and gas drilling under the Great Lakes; opponents of drilling outnumber supporters by more than a two-to-one margin. In addition, much of the opposition to drilling is strongly felt; fully 43 percent of those polled say that they "strongly oppose" oil drilling under the Great Lakes.

4. Opposition to drilling cuts across demographic and geographic subgroups within the electorate. For example, drilling under the Great Lakes is opposed by:

  • 63 percent of women and 58 percent of men;
  • 70 percent of Democrats, 66 percent of independents, and a 49-percent plurality of Republicans;
  • 62 percent of college-educated voters, and 61 percent of non-college educated voters;
  • 61 percent of whites and 62 percent of African-Americans;
  • 63 percent of voters under 50 and 59 percent of those age 50 and over; and
  • A majority of voters in every media market in the state.

5. Survey respondents were also told that there is a moratorium on new directional drilling under the Lakes, and were asked whether they would favor or oppose a continuation of that moratorium. A clear 54-percent majority of those polled favor continuing the moratorium, with more than one-third of those polled (37 percent) strongly favoring its continuation.

6. Survey respondents were also offered arguments from both supporters and opponents of a complete ban on oil drilling under the Great Lakes, as shown below:

(SOME PEOPLE/ OTHER PEOPLE) say we should continue to allow directional drilling for oil and gas underneath the Great Lakes. With sky high gas prices and our country facing an energy crunch, we need all the oil and gas we can get. Directional drilling has been permitted in Michigan for 22 years without one major incident causing harm to the Great Lakes or Michigan's natural resources. With the proper environmental and safety guidelines, directional drilling should be allowed to continue.


(OTHER PEOPLE/ SOME PEOPLE) say we should ban drilling for oil and gas underneath the Great Lakes because of the potential harm it could cause to coastal lands and water quality. We rely on the Great Lakes for our drinking water, our economy, tourism, and recreation. It is not worth risking this valuable resource for very little oil and gas that will practically no impact on gas prices and may never help Michigan consumers.

After hearing these two arguments, in rotating order, respondents were asked which one they agreed with more. A 57-percent majority of those polled agreed with the call to ban all drilling under the Great Lakes. Again, the sentiment in favor of a ban was strongly felt, with a full two-thirds of those who support a ban on drilling saying that they support it strongly.

© 2000-1, League of Conservation Voters Education Fund