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Town hall meeting on fracking on state land

May 08, 2013 - Brandon Twp.-At 6 p.m., May 15, Oakland County Water Resources Commissioner Jim Nash will have a town hall meeting at the Brandon Township Library, 304 South St., to focus on the impact of new state-issued oil and natural gas drilling leases in Oakland County. These leases could bring "fracking" to our area.

Fracking, the common term for slick water horizontal fracturing, drills wells up to two miles into the earth, then turns the drill bit horizontally to drill up to several miles. The resulting well is then filled with millions of gallons of fresh water mixed with sand, salts and chemicals. This mixture is then subjected to bursts of intense pressure to loosen rock formations and release natural gas. Some fear possible contamination of groundwater resources and have concerns about disposal of the resulting fracking fluid.

Craig Covey, special assistant to Nash, said the meeting is intended to educate the public on fracking.

"There's never been a problem with fracking locally," he said. "However, all that is needed is one major blow out with fracking. We want people to be aware of the issue as a service to the community."

Joining Commissioner Nash will be John Griffin from the Associated Petroleum Industries of Michigan with a question and answer period following the presentation.

While the meeting takes aim at education and public awareness of fracking locally, a Michigan-based oil exploration company representative said there's little need to worry.

In 2012 the Michigan Department of Natural Resources sold at auction state-owned gas and oil rights on more than 108,000 acres in 23 counties. According to news reports, in Oakland County the Jordan Energy Company purchased the mineral rights to 17,600 acres and Pteradon Energy purchased the rights to 664 acres—none were identified in Brandon or Groveland townships. A similar sale on May 9 also does not include land in Groveland or Brandon townships.

Ben Brower of Traverse City-based Jordan Energy said the mineral leases purchased on all property in Brandon and Groveland township have expired. "The (land) is 100 percent open now," said Brower. "We have not drilled any wells on the property; however, someone could nominate the land for auction that would be for a five-year lease. Our leases were never used."

"We have no intent on fracking in Oakland County," he said. "That is in the leases. The geology of the land does not lend itself to be fracked. Simply put, the ground gives up the oil. We just don't need to do that."

"Since the 1940s there have been 1.2 million wells fracked without one proven incident of ground water contamination—we are proud of that. If product is spilled and it has migrated to a water well, we do not know of that either. The Department of Environmental Quality is way more stringent in Michigan than in any other state Jordan works in—it's regulations are very intensive. The DEQ does a great job of watching out for the public—we live in this state, too, and care about the water. Jordan has a great track record."

Still, Nash and township officials keep the issue of fracking alive.

"Jordan Exploration claims they are not trying to frack in Oakland County and the DEQ agrees; however, we want to err on the side of caution," said Nash. "Oakland County is a highly populated area with the second highest number of lakes in the United States. There's always that chance for contamination."

Bob DePalma, Groveland Township supervisor, was concerned about maintaining the quality of drinking water in the community.

In September 2012, Brandon, Groveland, Springfield and Waterford townships signed resolutions. The township identified the Fracturing Responsibility and Awareness of Chemicals Act (FRAC Act), to repeal the fracking exemption to the Safe Drinking Water Act and require disclosure of chemicals used in fracking.

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