County Board Opposes Local Oil Drilling

The Washtenaw County board of commissioners has weighed in to oppose oil exploration and drilling in the county, following a vote at the board’s May 21, 2014 meeting. The vote was 7-1, over dissent from Dan Smith (R-District 2). Alicia Ping (R-District 3) was absent.

The resolution was brought forward by board chair Yousef Rabhi (D-District 8) of Ann Arbor, who had alerted the board about his plans at the previous meeting on May 7. He said he’d met with residents from the west side of the county about the threat of oil extraction. A drilling permit has been applied for in Scio Township, and residents are afraid that the state will grant the permit.

The two resolved clauses state:

BE IT THEREFORE RESOLVED, that Washtenaw County, Michigan:

1. Opposes said oil exploration and drilling, and any future oil exploration and drilling in this area and other areas within the boundaries of Washtenaw County; and

2. Respectfully requests that the Michigan Supervisor of Wells, as part of the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality, deny the permit application to drill the Wing 1-15 well as proposed; and

3. Hereby requests that the State of Michigan and federal legislators move to enact legislation and improve regulations to reduce the risks to public health, safety, welfare and the environment posed by the oil and gas industry, and re-commit to promoting and protecting quality of life, our economic well-being, and our environment through less reliance on non-renewable energy resources.

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED, a copy of this resolution shall be transmitted as the County’s official comment on said oil drilling permit and application by the Clerk, to each elected official representing Washtenaw County in Lansing, the Office of the Governor, and the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality.

At its May 19, 2014 meeting, the Ann Arbor city council approved a similar resolution opposing oil exploration in Scio Township.

At the county board’s May 21 meeting, commissioners heard from two residents who spoke during public commentary – including Gus Teschke from the advocacy group Citizens for Oil-Free Backyards – urging the board to oppose oil drilling.

During deliberations, Dan Smith argued that the issue was outside of the county’s purview, because the county can’t regulate oil drilling. He noted that the easiest way to prevent oil drilling is for property owners not to sign leases with companies that seek to drill on their land.

Other commissioners cited environmental and public health concerns in support of the resolution.

This brief was filed from the boardroom at the county administration building, 220 N. Main St. in Ann Arbor. A more detailed report will follow: [link]