Source: Sherman Publications

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Trustees cautious about Bay Court fracking idea

by Mary Keck

May 23, 2012

Before any drilling occurs in Bay Court Park, Independence Board of Trustees wants to know its cut of the royalties.

The board voted unanimously, May 15, to fund a title search, which would reveal how much of the park's minerals the township owns.

Trustee Neil Wallace also asked Chris Bickley, a representative from Jordan Development, to confirm fracking is "not something you're talking about doing in our community."

"The fracking process is controversial," Trustee Larry Rosso pointed out during the board meeting. "We have great pride in our environment."

Bickley said they do not plan to use hydraulic fracturing to extract minerals under the park.

They do plan to drill if there's oil under the park, however. Jordan Development will drill 3,000-10,000 feet into the earth, a process Bickley said would take about 10 days. The extraction is "virtually silent and odorless," Bickley said. "Michigan has had zero instances related to drilling and groundwater contamination."

The oil and gas firm has mineral rights to 98 acres of Independence Township, and about 28 of those acres are in Bay Court Park. While Bickley said Jordan Development currently has "no requests in place to drill a well in Independence Township," they intend to seek permission from private residents near the park for space to drill because they cannot legally put a wellhead on the park's surface.

Once they have a potential wellhead site, they'll get a permit from the Department of Energy Quality (DEQ) and find out if there's oil and gas beneath the earth.

"Typically where there's one, there's another," Bickley stated, but "our preference would be oil. That's what we're focusing on."

Prices for natural gas are relatively low currently, said Dr. Chris Grobbel, who was formerly employed to clean up toxic waste by the DEQ.

According to Bickley, "it's all based on return" on your investment, which is why gas may not be Jordan Development's goal.

Oakland County Resident LuAnne Kozma is concerned about Jordan's interest either way. She believes oil and gas firms use "the technique of fracking [hydraulic fracturing] for both oil and gas."

Dr. Grobbel confirmed fracking can be used to extract both minerals depending on what underground formations the minerals are found in.

Kozma is leading an effort to prohibit fracking in Michigan, which would follow on the heels of a fracking ban passed, May 17, in Vermont. Hydraulic fracturing extracts gas by pumping millions of gallons of water and chemicals deep into the earth.

Grobbel, who has been called on as an expert in several cases between landowners and oil and gas companies, said other states are "cracking down" due to the large amount of atmospheric emissions from oil and gas sites, and the federal government is now looking into pollution caused by oil and gas extraction.

When Clerk Barbara Pallotta asked a few more questions about potential impact to the environment, Bickley admitted, "anything could happen."

Grobbel said there have been "thousands of spills and groundwater contaminations" in Michigan due to oil and gas drilling.

He suggests residents who are approached by Jordan Development "get an experienced lawyer" who can write an agreement ensuring your "property is properly restored" when the company is done.