“Fracking” Opposed at County Board Meeting

Concerns about proposed oil and gas drilling in the Saline area using a technique known as “fracking” were raised by several speakers during public commentary at the April 4, 2012 meeting of the Washtenaw County board of commissioners. Similar concerns had been voiced by commissioners at previous meetings, and the board plans to hold an April 19 working session on the topic.

Speakers included Mitch Rhode, CEO of Saline-based Quantum Signal and founder of “NoPaxton.com,” which has mobilized against drilling in this area. Paxton Resources – a company based in Gaylord, Mich.– has notified the county that it has filed an application with the Michigan Dept. of Environmental Quality to drill an exploratory oil and natural gas well in Saline Township. [.pdf of notification letter]

Rhode said he was approached in October about the possibility of licensing the mineral rights on his property. After looking into it, he said what he found was frightening: drilling that resulted in well contamination and property devaluation, and damaged roads caused by company tanker trucks, among other effects. He and other speakers noted that there is insufficient state regulation and oversight of these activities.

Several commissioners thanked the speakers for coming and expressed their own intent to look into the issue, though it’s not clear what action can be taken at the county level. Yousef Rabhi called it one of the most important issues facing this community, and noted that there’s already been an example of industrial contamination – the 1,4 dioxane contamination of underground aquifers caused by the former Gelman Sciences manufacturing plant in Scio Township. Court-ordered cleanup of that contamination has been ongoing for years.

Wes Prater has prepared a resolution similar to one passed last year by the Wayne County commission, which called for a statewide and national ban on hydraulic fracturing for natural gas. Washtenaw County commissioners are expected to take up the resolution following the April 19 working session. That meeting begins at 6 p.m. at the county administration building, 220 N. Main St. in Ann Arbor.

This brief was filed soon after adjournment of the board’s April 4 meeting. A more detailed report will follow: [link]