Town hall meeting to address fracking

By: Linda Shepard | Rochester Post | Published March 4, 2014

ROCHESTER HILLS — Gas and oil drilling, along with fracking, will be the subjects of an upcoming town hall meeting hosted by Oakland County Water Resources Commissioner Jim Nash.

“We want our residents to be informed and learn about topics that can affect our quality of life,” Nash said in a statement. “As more and more leases are being signed in Rochester Hills and across the county, residents need to know how this industry can affect the environment.”

According to Rochester Hills Mayor Bryan Barnett, approximately 400 city residents in eight different neighborhoods near Tienken Road have signed leases with Jordan Development Co. for gas and oil drilling on their property.

City officials have signed leases for three city property sites in Rochester Hills: Tienken Park, near Rochester Adams High School; Nowicki Park, off Adams Road; and the Van Hoosen Jones Stony Creek Cemetery, off of Tienken Road.

Barnett said directional drills located up to two miles away from property sites will eliminate drilling rigs, trucks and wellheads.

Residents have spoken out on the topic of gas and oil drilling at several recent Rochester Hill City Council meetings, opposing the use of fracking, where fractures below the earth’s surface are opened and widened by injecting chemicals and liquids at high pressure. Some environmentalists link high-volume hydraulic fracturing to the contamination of groundwater and risks to air quality.

According to the terms of the lease with Jordan Development, no high-volume or low-volume fracking will be allowed. 

“The City Council has said there will be no fracking,” Barnett said.

Barnett said the city received a $10,000 signing bonus for the drilling on the three city properties and will receive one-sixth of the royalties from the wells. The bonus went into the city’s general fund, he said.

“If royalty checks come, it will be up to the City Council” to determine their use, he said.

“Those funds could be directed to roads, the general fund or parks,” he said. “It is a huge ‘what if.’ We are not counting on the money. We are not trying to fill a budget gap.”

Individual homeowners cannot be restricted in signing drilling leases, Barnett said.

“We’ve seen cities try to restrict it, but they’ve been sued,” he said. “There is not a lot the city can do. Your mineral rights are your mineral rights.”

Barnett said gas and oil drilling — along with fracking — is a conversation common across the country.

“It is a very national discussion,” he said, “about our dependence on foreign oil and our desire to wean ourselves from it.”  

According to the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality, permits have been issued for more than 60,000 oil and gas wells in the state.

Over the past year, Jordan Development Co. and other companies have leased or purchased mineral rights in Rochester Hills, Auburn Hills and thousands of acres of land in Oakland County and the region for exploration and possible drilling, said Nash.

The meeting will be held 6 p.m. March 11 at Rochester High School, 180 Livernois Road. A question-and-answer period will follow presentations by Nash, representatives from the oil and gas industry and/or the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality.