Drilling phase complete, company to test for oil

West Bay scheduled to host public workshop Aug. 20

By: Sarah Wojcik | Shelby - Utica News | Published August 20, 2014

SHELBY TOWNSHIP — Oil drilling in a residential area near 25 Mile and Dequindre roads is a hot-button topic in Shelby Township, but, because such leases between property and mineral rights owners and oil exploration companies are regulated through the state, township officials said they could do nothing to stop it.

The latest news in the operation is that West Bay Exploration Co. has reached its target depth and inserted the last of the steel concentric rings for protecting the ground and aquifer beneath the surface, said vice president Pat Gibson.

“The construction phase of our well is completed and we will begin removing equipment from the site before the weekend,” he said Aug. 13.

Additionally, Shelby Township Supervisor Rick Stathakis received written confirmation from West Bay Aug. 12 that a pipeline would be used to transport any product from a well at the site to a processing facility, rather than trucks, said Deputy Supervisor Brad Bates.

Gibson wrote that the facility would be located somewhere along the existing Consumers Power right of way on the northern edge of West Bay’s well pad.

“This could be 3-4 miles away,” he wrote. “Our first step is to make a well. We would then look for the appropriate facility location in a commercial/industrial area.”

On Aug. 14, Gibson said the results of the oil drilling were yet inconclusive and that a smaller, truck-mounted rig would move in to conduct a final test of the well the week of Aug. 17 to determine whether it might be productive.

On Aug. 7, more than 300 concerned residents flooded the Shelby Township municipal building’s boardroom to voice disapproval of the operation and ask questions of township attorney Rob Huth and Michigan Department of Environmental Quality geologist and area overseer Jack Lanigan.

At the end of the meeting, Huth compiled a list of action items that he took to the Board of Trustees. The items on the list included improving communication regarding the site, encouraging local representatives to take action against residential oil drilling and seeing whether the township could enact an ordinance to discourage residential oil drilling in the township in the future.

Representatives from West Bay did not attend the Aug. 7 town hall session. Gibson said they decided not to attend when they learned that the town hall was not called by the township, but by outside groups.

At 6:30 p.m. Aug. 20, West Bay is scheduled to host a public workshop with its staff geologist, engineers, geophysicist and executives that will take place at the Palazzo Grande, located at 54660 Van Dyke Ave., south of 25 Mile Road.

Huth and Jim Olson, an attorney in the specialized practice of environmental, land use, municipal, real estate, hazardous waste and natural resources law, will also be in attendance to discuss the drilling operation near 25 Mile and Dequindre roads, what was found at the site and what the future holds for the operation and surrounding community.

On Aug. 11, Stathakis sent a letter to Gov. Rick Snyder asking him to take immediate steps to repeal section 205(2) of the Michigan Zoning Enabling Act. He also expressed interest in meeting Snyder in Lansing with members of the township who are directly impacted by the law.

At press time, the Board of Trustees was scheduled to vote at its Aug. 19 meeting to send a resolution urging the state Legislature to make changes to section 205(2) of the Michigan Zoning Enabling Act to allow local governments to enforce ordinances as they pertain to oil and gas exploration operations within their boundaries.