Fearful of ‘fracking,’ Kent County township adopts moratorium on oil and gas drilling

Fearful of ‘fracking,’ Kent County township adopts moratorium on oil and gas drilling by Jim Harger, May 16, 2013, MLive
ROCKFORD, MI – Cannon Township Clerk Bonnie Blackledge said her township’s board is concerned enough about “fracking” to adopt the moratorium on oil and gas wells even though their attorney has told them a moratorium probably can’t be enforced. Blackledge and her fellow township board members voted unanimously on Monday, May 13, to impose a six-month moratorium on oil and gas operations while they explore regulations that may not be covered by the Michigan Supervisor of Wells, who has exclusive jurisdiction of oil and gas wells. “From my own personal motivation, it’s extremely important that we protect the water in our community,” said Blackledge, who said her concerns are based on her fear that oil and gas wells may be completed by hydraulic fracturing. … “We wanted to give ourselves some time,” Blackledge said. “What we’re looking into are ordinances that would protect our community in case they want to do (fracturing).” In a May 10 memorandum to the board, township attorney James Scales wrote a moratorium would be unenforceable. Townships and counties are barred from regulating oil and gas exploration since 1943, he wrote. However, Scales said “courts have ruled that this does not exempt all aspect of the oil and gas industry from local regulation.” Blackledge said the township board is planning to host three informational meetings to discuss possible ordinances that could limit oil and gas activities. … Traverse City lawyer Jim Olson, director of FLOW (For Love of Water) of Michigan will attend the first meeting, Blackledge said. Oil and gas industry representatives have not been invited but are welcome to attend, she said. John Griffin, executive director of Associated Petroleum Industries of Michigan, said the moratorium may interfere with the property rights of landowners who want to extract their resources. “I wonder if they got the full story on the benefits (of oil and gas exploration,)” Griffin said. “There’s a lot of fear-mongering and misinformation.” Deb Muchmore, a spokeswoman for the Michigan Oil and Gas Association, said the moratorium was “disappointing, as energy production in our state is vital to our state’s economy, local jobs and energy security. [Emphasis added]

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