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A roundup of recent editorials in Michigan newspapers

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The Detroit News. Oct. 9.

Energy is key to Michigan's future

Hydraulic fracturing, the process of blasting rock with high-pressure water to extract natural gas from shale formations deep beneath the earth's surface, has stirred controversy throughout the country. The debate over the safety and environmental risks of "fracking," as it's commonly called, has reached Michigan as well.

Several communities — including groups in Rochester Hills, Shelby Township and parts of Washtenaw County — are protesting fracking and drilling near residential neighborhoods.

As Michigan's local communities look to regulate modern production practices, they and the energy industry must work together to craft regulations that protect health, safety and the environment, but don't squash the economic benefits energy production offers the state.

The United States is now the leading producer of oil and natural gas in the world, surpassing Saudi Arabia and Russia.

According to the Energy Information Administration, total U.S. crude oil production averaged an estimated 8.7 million barrels per day in September, the highest monthly production since July 1986.

That number is expected to increase by 2 million per day in 2015. And natural gas liquids are expected to increase to 3.2 million barrels per day in 2015 from a 2013 average of 2.6 million

The dramatic increase in production is largely due to recent fracking of shale formations in North Dakota and Texas, and in nearby Pennsylvania and Ohio. Shale gas production now accounts for about half of the total U.S. natural gas production, up from 1 percent in 2000.

Although Michigan is not a top energy producing state, the oil and gas industry still supports about 182,000 jobs statewide and contributes $15.8 billion to its economy, according to the American Petroleum Institute.

The average salary for industry-related jobs is almost $76,000 annually — $30,000 higher than the average Michigan wage for other jobs.

The economic benefits of the energy production extend to other industries upon which Michigan heavily relies, including manufacturing and transportation. Those require efficient, local energy production to operate at full capacity and provide jobs for Michiganians. A July report by the University of Michigan says shale gas is a "game-changer for U.S. manufacturing."

Increased domestic production of oil and gas means lower gas prices and more energy independence.

Considering the uptick in Middle East turmoil and strained relations between the U.S. and Russia, it's imperative the country rely on as much of its own energy supply as possible.

Michigan sits on a shale formation. About 12,000 wells have been safely fractured in the state since 1952. The Michigan Department of Environmental Quality says "regulators have seen no instances of adverse environmental impacts."

Michigan also has strict rules about water use, construction and testing in the process. Water contamination has not been an issue.

The groups protesting fracking mainly take concern with it being close to residential areas. That's a fair complaint, and reasonable rules should be in place to limit well-heads in close proximity to homes.

But the safety of fracking as a modern technology has been well-established in other states.

In Colorado, which sits on major energy reserves, the industry led initiatives with the state last year to regulate itself. This kind of collaborative approach serves the best interests of residents, state government, and those in the industry.

Energy production is key to Michigan's future. Any regulations should honor that while protecting health and safety for local communities.

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Daily Press (Escanaba) Oct. 10.

Keep kids healthy in school this year

School is back in session, the homework comes home consistently, and leaves are starting to fall. The routine of school means different things for each child, including sitting for long periods of time, snacking on vending machine items, and not to mention the sometimes lengthy ride home on the school bus. So, as a parent, how can you keep your child as healthy as possible as they spend their days in school?

One in three American kids and teens is overweight or obese, but getting 60 minutes of physical activity each day can help your child maintain a healthy weight. Because children spend most of their waking time at school during the week, they should get much of that physical activity at school, during physical education class or recess. At this time, Michigan only requires schools to provide one credit in physical education and health. In addition to that, P.E. and recess vary greatly from school to school. Ask your child's principal what activities are offered in P.E., and what does recess include? In some schools, recess may include 20 minutes for lunch, and then 30 minutes for free play outside or in a gym, and in another school it could be 15 minutes of an organized activity. Parents and educators must work together to ensure each child gets the physical activity they need.

Another way to help kids get exercise in daily is to skip the car ride or bus to school and walk or ride a bike instead. The American Heart Association supports the federal Safe Routes to School (SRTS) program, which provides transportation funding to create safe, convenient and fun opportunities for children to bicycle and walk to and from school. Not only does walking or biking to school benefit your child physically, but it also alleviates morning traffic, lowers transportation costs and improves air quality. In fact, idling school busses are a major source of diesel pollution in many communities.

Parents may be in tune with their children's teachers on how their child is doing academically, but to get an idea of how your child is staying physically healthy every day, ask your schools' administrators some questions:

1. What is the nutritional content of the cafeteria menu? Are children receiving nutritious options?

2. How many minutes of PE do students get weekly? What does PE class look like? Are kids being active and learning how to properly exercise?

3. What does the "education" portion of P.E. include? Are kids learning healthy behaviors? Are they learning how to read nutrition information or how many calories their bodies need daily?

4. Besides P.E., what opportunities are there for physical activity during the school day? Are there opportunities for physical activity during recess?

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Lansing State Journal. Oct. 9.

Empty seats create stadium drama

Folks associated with Michigan State University football spent some time this week agonizing about a visual image they didn't care for: empty seats in the student section at the MSU-Nebraska game.

The good news is, Athletic Director Mark Hollis recognizes that the program has some room to improve how student football patrons are treated. The current system of open seating means that getting better seats forces people to enter the stadium well before game time. On a night like Saturday, where rain and a 20-degree drop in temperatures made conditions ever more uncomfortable, one could hardly blame those who couldn't manage a five or six hour tour-of-duty in the student seats.

So some opportunity at assigned seating, especially for those students who purchase season tickets for two or more years, makes sense. And Hollis suggested such strategies will be under discussion.

There could be temporary solutions, too. For example, throwing T-shirts into the student crowd still present at the end of the game might hold a few in their seats. Or maybe officials want to give "free" seats to a few hundred students (with a valid student ID) beginning in the third quarter. They'd have to let in only enough to cover empty spots, but it could be done.

At a certain point, though, MSU officials might have to recognize that 8 p.m. prime-time game slots given to nationally prominent teams keep fans in the stadium until midnight or later. Fans who get too tired or too cold might not stay til the end, student or otherwise.

On balance, the national status is probably more important than a few empty seats.

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The Mining Journal (Marquette). Oct. 8.

Bargain license fees good deal for visitors to state

It's no secret Michigan is a haven for hunters and anglers. State Sen. Tom Casperson, R-Escanaba, has introduced a bill that might make it more attractive for out-of-state residents to come to the Wolverine State.

Casperson wants to sell discounted licenses to nonresidents who own property in Michigan and to former Michiganians who lived in the state for at least 10 consecutive years.

Casperson called it a "come home to hunt" approach in which their license fees would be higher than what state residents pay but lower than other nonresidents. About 14.5 percent of the approximately 1.6 million people who bought fishing or hunting licenses in the 2013 license year that ended in February were from out of state. So there is a market for this.

Casperson's thinking is that people have complained that fees are exorbitant for relatives visiting from outside Michigan and former traditional hunting buddies. He also pointed out some people own property in Michigan, and although they don't live here, they pay state taxes. However, their fees still would be higher than the residents' fees.

The current base hunting license that covers small game and allows hunters to buy other types of licenses costs $11 for Michigan residents and $151 for nonresidents. Casperson's bill, which is in the Senate Outdoor Recreation and Tourism Committee, would cost "qualified nonresidents" $75 plus a $1 Michigan Department of Natural Resources surcharge.

The hunting/fishing combination license for small game, deer and fishing has a $76 price tag for state residents and costs $266 for nonresidents, which would increase for qualified nonresidents to $132.50 plus the $1 surcharge. An all-species fishing license, which now costs $26 for residents and $76 for nonresidents, would be $37.50 for qualified nonresidents plus the $1 surcharge.

For qualified nonresidents, a wolf license would cost $250, compared with $500 for other out-of-staters and $100 for state residents.

The DNR hasn't fully analyzed the bill, although it wants to ensure impacts on revenue don't hurt natural resources management, which depends on license fees.

Casperson said he understands this concern. However, Michigan needs an influx of people coming into the state to take part in recreation and spend tourism dollars.

Current residents also want their out-of-state family and friends to take hunting and fishing trips with them, so why not make it easier for this to happen in Michigan?

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