Oil Well in Shelby Twp

Oil Well in Shelby Twp

There has been a lot in our local papers about the oil and gas drilling controversy happening in Rochester Hills and Shelby Twp. While all of you were enjoying the September luncheon, I was driving back from a vacation in Wyoming. The southern half of that state is covered with oil and gas wells. They are tidy little units that cause no one any problem. Traffic and noise is not an issue in Wyoming’s miles of empty terrain. Quite a different landscape from our roads and subdivisions.

As to what’s happening around here, I encourage anyone interested to visit dointdrillthehills.org or friend them on Facebook for current updates. Here’s a quick summary of where things stand:

  • A lawsuit has been filed seeking to force a vote on whether to allow the sale of mineral rights on three pieces of property. The lawsuit asserts that by signing a lease with Jordan Oil, the Rochester Hills mayor and city council: violated the city charter; violated Michigan law which requires voter approval for the sale of city parks and cemeteries; acted beyond the scope of their power; and took away the citizen’s right to vote on the lease. The next court date is October 8.
  • This summer an oil well was drilled in Shelby Township and then taken down. It was a football field away from a subdivision of half million dollar homes, towering 120 feet. It was removed after public outcry and political pressure due to the upcoming elections.
  • In late August, Senate bill 1026 was introduced in the Michigan Senate to restrict oil drilling in communities with populations over 70,000. It is doubtful that this law will pass before the current legislature’s term ends in December.
  • On August 26, Rochester Hills City Council voted a six month moratorium on oil drilling in Rochester Hills. Many allege that this action is purely political (until after the November elections) and would not stand up to a court challenge by the oil companies.

The very harsh reality is that the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) controls oil drilling, permits, and all regulation in the state of Michigan.  Local units of government have little power or authority.  DEQ is an appointed body and not subject to voters but heavily influenced by oil and gas industry lobbyists.

Not exactly good news for those of us who don’t want oil and gas drilling in our community. But keep in mind the words of anthropologist Margaret Mead, “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.” Right on, Margaret!