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Issues of The Environment: An Abundance Of Oil And Gas Exploration In Washtenaw County

Apr 1, 2015

Oil and gas companies  are targeting Washtenaw County and buying up land leases and property mineral rights. In This week's "Issues of the Environment," David Fair talks with the President of Citizens for Oil Free Backyards, Laura Robinson. 


Overview

  *   Oil exploration continues to make inroads in some of Washtenaw Counties densely populated townships. Just this week, Citizens for Oil Free Backyards reported that 62 new oil and gas leases comprising a total of 582.75 acres have recently been recorded by West Bay Exploration in Scio Township. Last Week, the city of Dexter enacted a 6 month moratorium on drilling within the city.

  *   There is some consensus between pro-drilling and anti-drilling factions that oil extraction operations have the potential to pose a threat to the environment by contaminating ground and water resources, however the EPA has stated that technological innovations have made the drilling process more effective and decreased the risk of accidents.

  *   Michigan legislation, primarily the Michigan Zoning and Enabling Act (MZEA) and the Natural Resources and Environmental Protection Act, have not changed since the Granholm administration, and they give counties and townships little authority to enact independent, local regulations regarding oil and gas extraction operations.

  *   In fall of 2014 two bills that would have given townships and counties greater say in regulating oil operations (SB 1026 and SB 1076) were defeated, but although it appears difficult to sway the current legislature in favor of greater local control (and under the mandate of the MDEQ to “facilitate oil and gas resource extraction”), COFBY sees hope in new proposals that seek to regulate the ancillary activities of oil extraction as a way for townships to gain regional controls.

  *   Laura Robinson, President of Citizen’s for Oilfree Backyards, says that COFBY is not seeking to enact legislation that would have the effect of banning oil operations from most counties and townships, but they would like to see high-density residential townships given greater freedom to make policies that fit the individual needs and desires of their communities, similar to those currently afforded to cities and villages.