City requests more information and analysis from MDEQ in effort to deny drilling
The city of Southfield requested additional information from the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality (MDEQ) on January 19 regarding Jordan Development’s request for a permit to drill an exploratory well on the grounds of Word of Faith International Christian Center.
Based upon Michigan State Law R324.201(4) of the administrative rules adopted pursuant to Part 615 (Supervisor of Wells Act) of Michigan’s Natural Resources and Environmental Protection Act (NREPA), 1994 P.A. 451, as amended, an application for a permit to drill an oil or gas exploratory well must be complete and accurate. As such, the City has requested that the MDEQ require the following additional information from the Applicant.
Nearby Residential Water Wells
“Please describe to the City how the MDEQ has determined that additional fresh water wells do not exist within the required search radius of the proposed Word of Faith 16-27 well, how fresh water/drinking water supplies relied upon by nearby residents will be adequately protected should this well and ancillary facilities and uses be drilled and/or developed for production.”
Special Hazards and Natural Features
“Please describe to the City of Southfield if and based on what evidence the MDEQ has determined that these surface water, wetlands - reflective of permanent, high groundwater table, and adjacent public recreational resources will be adequately protected should this well and ancillary facilities and uses be drilled and/or developed for production at this location.”
Endangered Species Protection
“Please describe to the City of Southfield if and based on what evidence the MDEQ has determined that legally-protected species and/or their habitat do not exist at this location pursuant to the requirements of Parts 615 and 365 of NRPEA.”
Cumulative Environmental Impact/Alternatives Analysis
“Please describe to the City of Southfield if and based on what evidence the MDEQ has determined that the application adequately considers likely environmental impacts, demonstrates the need for the well, and that alternative locations have been adequately considered by Jordan Development and the MDEQ for the proposed hydrocarbon exploration or likely subsequent production, as required by R324.701 and Part 17: Environmental Protection Act of NREPA.”
Prevention of Waste/ARARs
“Please describe to the City of Southfield if and based on what evidence the MDEQ has determined that the application adequately demonstrates that adjoining and nearby landowners and residents will be adequately protected from potential air pollution, odors and/or glare from the handling of natural gas at and from the proposed well.”
“Please describe to the City of Southfield if and based on what evidence the MDEQ has determined that the application adequately demonstrates that air quality will be adequately protected, that nuisance odors will be adequately prevented, and whether or not an air pollution permit to install and/or operate is required by the MDEQ for the proposed well and ancillary structures and uses.”
In a separate letter sent to Word of Faith on January 19, the City further outlined its position that MDEQ should deny approval to Jordan’s application. Moreover, the letter stated that even if Jordan’s application is approved by the MDEQ, that still does not give Word of Faith or the Jordan Company the rights to drill on this property without the City’s approval. Additionally, the letter reiterated that the church is also not permitted to remove any trees, unless in compliance with the City’s Woodland regulations.
“Drilling for oil and gas, no matter how safe Jordan Development claims – is totally incompatible with a residential area,” commented Mayor Kenson Siver. “The City’s utmost concern is the public’s health, safety and welfare and we remain committed to act in the best interest of our residents.”
The city of Southfield Planning and Legal Departments have been reviewing the ability of the City to establish zoning or other regulations relative to oil and gas extraction and mining operations, including hydraulic fracturing or fracking operations within the City since September of 2014. The Southfield City Council has already approved the establishment of an extended 180 day moratorium on oil and gas extraction and mining operations in Southfield until April 28, 2016. The Planning and Legal Departments are currently preparing a new Zoning Ordinance that will be in place before the Moratorium expires in April.
On November 4, 2015, Jordan Development, an oil and gas exploration company based in Traverse City, applied to the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality (MEDQ) for a permit to drill an exploratory well on the grounds of Word of Faith International Christian Center in Southfield. This Application was filed with the MDEQ without any prior discussion or approval from the City. Jordan Development and the church entered into an oil and gas lease agreement and filed papers with the Oakland County Clerk’s Office. The city of Southfield strongly opposes this application to drill and asserts that it should be denied based upon the Moratorium and following points:
(1) Drilling is not a permitted use in the R-2, Single Family Residential zoning district in which the subject property is located;
(2) There is currently a moratorium in effect through April 28, 2016 prohibiting drilling or mining in the City of Southfield;
(3) This application, if approved, would have an adverse impact on the public health, safety, and welfare of this community;
(4) What we have been provided in the application is incomplete and ambiguous;
(5) There are potential issues/impacts in terms of the City’s Woodlands and/or Wetlands ordinances; and
(6) There may likely be other considerations that the City cannot fully address until this matter is fully analyzed and evaluated.
“Recent issues involving the MDEQ have raised serious concerns about the Department’s review process,” added City Administrator Fred Zorn. “The safety of our residents should be of paramount concern to the MDEQ. That is why the City is requesting that the MDEQ fully and completely address all of the issues that the City has presented to them.”
Oil and gas exploration efforts throughout Oakland County and other metro area communities have recently faced vocal opposition from community leaders and private citizens. Oil and gas exploration is a serious concern and a major topic of discussion not only in the city of Southfield and Oakland County, but throughout the entire southeastern Michigan area. Drilling does bring risks of spills, accidents and pollution. It also has an adverse effect on property values of the surrounding areas and financially impacts residents. There is also a risk to the health, safety and welfare of our residents and property owners, which is why the issue of drilling is so significant and cannot be ignored.
District 35 State Representative Jeremy Moss will host a “Fracking Town Hall” featuring Oakland County Water Resources Commissioner Jim Nash on January 27 at 6 p.m. at the Southfield Public Library to provide residents information on oil and gas exploration and drilling, including “fracking” or horizontal hydraulic fracturing. Moss encourages those who cannot attend but who wish to express their opposition to call his office toll-free at (844) 347-8035 or to e-mail email@example.com.
For more information, call the City Planning Department at (248) 796-4150.