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New ordinance could regulate oil and gas drilling

By: Mike Koury | West Bloomfield Beacon | Published January 7, 2016

 The proposed ordinance lists many concerns pertaining to the health and safety of residents, such as withdrawal of groundwater that impacts lakes, streams and wetlands in the community.

The proposed ordinance lists many concerns pertaining to the health and safety of residents, such as withdrawal of groundwater that impacts lakes, streams and wetlands in the community.

File photo by Donna Agusti

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WEST BLOOMFIELD — A new ordinance that was scheduled to be introduced at the Jan. 11 township Board of Trustees meeting would put regulations on businesses looking to explore for gas and oil in West Bloomfield.

The ordinance would put restrictions on how businesses could go about exploring for gas and oil. The measure is designed to protect the health and safety of the township’s residents, according to Township Supervisor Michele Economou Ureste.

“All we can do at this point, based on our limited police powers, is impose regulations,” Ureste said. “The regulations that we impose in this ordinance may curtail gas and oil drilling. It may get, I guess, more challenging, financially burdensome, too restrictive to where maybe the gas and oil industry may look at that and decide, ‘OK, maybe we don’t go to this community,’ that ‘we go to another community.’”

The ordinance states that the Michigan Constitution and statutes “authorize the township to adopt local regulations to protect the public health, safety and welfare of its residents; to regulate activities that cause nuisances; to regulate activities of industries that impede upon others’ quality of life, property values, and health, safety and welfare; and to protect and preserve natural resources of the community.”

The ordinance would require the drilling company to supply a certificate of compliance that provides the name of the property owner, the location of the activity and copies of all permits, plus a timeline of the activity and plans for truck routes, water management, a hydrogeological study and monitoring plan, and a pollution prevention plan. The company will need a minimum of three on-site groundwater monitoring wells. It will be required to submit a noise management plan that complies with the township’s noise ordinances — including providing documentation establishing the ambient noise level prior to construction.

Violation of the ordinance would be a misdemeanor, which would mean a fine of up to $500 and/or 90 days in jail. 

“Each day a violation is committed or permitted to continue, it shall constitute a separate offense and shall be treated as a separate offense,” the ordinance states. That doesn’t preclude any civil proceedings that might arise, the ordinance notes. 

“We cannot necessarily oppose activity,” Ureste said. “Perhaps these regulations are restrictive where it might deter activity. … Those restrictions are common-sense items.”

Some of the concerns pertaining to health and safety of residents as laid out in the ordinance are the 24-hour operations of some businesses, the nighttime light, hydrocarbon and ambient dust emissions, industrial noise, violation of community master plans that force industrial conditions on residentially zoned areas, activities that disrupt wildlife and their habitats, and withdrawal of groundwater that would reduce the volume of well water in residential areas and groundwater that impacts lakes, streams and wetlands in the community.

Oakland County Water Resources Commissioner Jim Nash said the basic purpose of local government is to protect the welfare of the residents, which is what the ordinance does, along with protecting the groundwater in the area.

“What they’ve proposed is (a) very good regulatory approach,” he said. “It’s not saying they can’t (drill), but they have to do it in ways that are protecting their citizens. To me, that’s the most important part of what they want to do.”

Nash said drilling is noisy and involves a lot of lights, so the aim of the ordinance is to control that as best they can.

“The state has most of the regulatory ability around drilling operations,” he said. “But local government has some ability to control things like roads, which is in this ordinance, and pretesting and post-testing during operations.”

Supporters of domestic drilling see it as a method of moving toward energy independence, but some residents worry that oil rigs would be set up or an extraction technique called hydraulic fracturing could pollute the environment.

West Bloomfield is home to 28 lakes, 150 ponds and 3,500 acres of protected wetlands and woodlands, so permitting gas and oil exploration risks contaminating the environment, Ureste said previously.

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