oil drilling

Courts
5:16 pm
Wed July 23, 2014

Washtenaw judge dismisses lawsuit to block oil drilling project

An oil well.
Credit morguefile

A judge in Washtenaw County today dismissed a lawsuit to prevent oil drilling in Scio Township, near Ann Arbor.

Citizens for Oil-Free Backyards wants to stop West Bay Exploration from drilling. So it sued the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality for what it calls an "unfair and faulty" permitting process.

But the judge ruled that he had no jurisdiction over the case. He said Ingham County is the appropriate court.

Arthur Siegal represents the non-profit group. He said West Bay could start drilling within a week.

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Families & Community
5:03 pm
Thu July 17, 2014

Community group near Ann Arbor tries to stop new oil drilling

Citizens for Oil-Free Backyards announced the lawsuit to the Scio public on Wednesday night.
Credit Laura Robinson

Exploratory oil drilling could come to Scio Township, near Ann Arbor, soon. But a community group has a filed a lawsuit to try to prevent it.

Citizens for Oil-Free Backyards filed the lawsuit against the oil company, West Bay Exploration, and the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality.

The group claims that DEQ did not follow its own rules meaningfully when considering the drilling permit.

Laura Robinson heads the group.  

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Environment & Science
2:58 pm
Thu July 17, 2014

Public hearings on proposed "fracking" rules wraps up, ballot campaign could follow

Member of the public with a “No Fracking” sticker on her clothes as she testifies before a panel of environmental regulators.
Credit Rick Pluta

State environmental regulators will put the finishing touches on new rules regarding “fracking” now that public hearings have wrapped up. They expect to have the new rules adopted by the end of the year, but the state’s rules may not be the final word on the controversial drilling process

“Fracking” is a drilling method that pushes water and chemicals into wells to force out oil and gas deposits.

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Environment & Science
5:01 pm
Thu July 3, 2014

State approves oil well permit for Scio Township

An oil well.
Credit morguefile

The state has approved a permit for a controversial exploratory oil well in Scio Township close to Ann Arbor.

The approval came despite fierce opposition from residents and Scio Township's board of trustees.

Adam Wygant is with the state Department of Environmental Quality.

He says because of the public comments, the state took two months to study the application - much longer than the 24 days it normally takes to approve a permit for an exploratory oil well.

Wygant says oil wells tend to be less disruptive than people fear, and often, they get used to them.

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Environment & Science
5:31 pm
Wed July 2, 2014

Appeals court says no drilling in Pigeon River forest

Pigeon River State Forest
Credit michigan.gov

The Michigan Court of Appeals says state regulators were correct to deny a drilling permit to developers who want to put oil wells on private land surrounded by a state forest.

The developers said the state should either grant the permit, or compensate them for their lost investment. They want to put 11 wells on private property surrounded by the Pigeon River Country State Forest in northern lower Michigan. The state Department of Environmental Quality said the wells were either in designated no-drill zones, or were too close to water.

“The takeaway from this decision is that you can’t drill an oil well just any old place in the state of Michigan,” said DEQ spokesman Brad Wurful. “There are some areas that are off limits.”

And the decision says since that was clear up front, the developers don’t get a payback from the state.

“What the court said was, everybody knew this beforehand going into this and it was clear,” Wurful said. “Nobody got surprised here. They simply wanted to do something that was not allowed and the court upheld that. We’re pretty pleased with the decision, obviously.”

The developers can file a new permit request with plans to use different technology, like directional drilling. They can also take their case to the Michigan Supreme Court.

Politics & Culture
6:18 pm
Thu June 5, 2014

New report gathers opinions on fracking in Michigan

Credit Eusko Jaurlaritza / Flickr

What do the people who run Michigan's towns and cities think about the prospect of high-volume hydraulic fracturing, or "fracking" in or near their communities?

A new report from the University of Michigan's Center for Local, State and Urban Policy looks into that question.

In Michigan, only a handful of communities report some type of high-volume fracking operation. It's the controversial process used to extract natural gas by drilling into shale deposits.

The center’s program director, Tom Ivacko, joined us to talk about the results.

*Listen to the interview above.

Environment & Science
10:58 am
Fri April 25, 2014

Anger, concern over petroleum drilling in Scio Township

Drilling is already happening at several sites across Michigan.
Credit Bureau of Land Management

"How many of you are here to stop the drilling?" one woman asked the crowd of about 200 at a town forum in Scio Township last night.

Big applause broke out.

It was the first indication that the crowd was not going to be a friendly one for the executives from West Bay Exploration, a Traverse City-based drilling company that has asked several landowners in Scio Township to sign over leases for their mineral rights.

The town forum was billed as an opportunity to "become educated about oil and gas leasing."

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Environment & Science
12:37 pm
Tue April 8, 2014

Company considers drilling for oil west of Ann Arbor

A drilling rig in Appalachia.
Creative Commons photo by user Meridithw

Ben Freed over at The Ann Arbor News has more about the plans being developed by Traverse City-based West Bay Exploration Company. Freed reports the company has approached landowners in Scio Township looking to obtain their mineral rights.

West Bay says it would drill for oil using a "traditional" method. The company's vice president, Patrick Gibson, said it wouldn't use horizontal hydraulic fracturing, or fracking:

“We’re a conventional oil and gas exploration company, we do not utilize hydraulic fracturing,” Gibson said.

“What we’re looking for is geological formations that are already fractured so that we don’t have to do any fracturing ourselves, hydraulic or otherwise.”

Landowners are being advised to educate themselves before signing contracts offered by the company. MSU's extension office offers insights into oil and gas leasing on this page.

Law
7:58 am
Thu April 3, 2014

New state law lowers taxes for companies trying to get more oil out of existing wells

Credit Randy Knauf / Creative Commons

A new state law encourages oil companies to go back to oil wells that are considered tapped out and extract more oil.

So-called “enhanced recovery projects” are relatively new in Michigan. In fact, there’s only one company that’s using the technique.

The process recycles carbon dioxide that would otherwise be vented into the atmosphere and pumps it down into existing oil wells. The pressure forces more oil to the surface. Proponents say the process makes better use of existing oil wells because the oil couldn’t be recovered without the technique.

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The Environment Report
11:43 am
Tue March 25, 2014

Environmental groups split over proposed tax break for oil recovery

morguefile

Jake Neher talks about the proposed tax break for oil recovery.

The Michigan Legislature recently approved a package of bills that’s causing a split between environmental groups.

The legislation would lower a tax on a certain kind of oil recovery.

Jake Neher is the capitol reporter for the Michigan Public Radio Network and he’s been following this story. I spoke with him about these bills for today's Environment Report.

“The main bill in the package would cut the state severance tax from 6.6% to 4% for companies using what’s called enhanced production or enhanced recovery methods to essentially clean out low-producing oil wells. So basically, they pump a bunch of carbon dioxide into the wells to help get relatively little amounts of oil out of them. In other words, companies would pay a lower tax rate on the oil they take out of the ground using that process.”

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Environment & Science
4:36 pm
Wed May 9, 2012

Drilling rights auction brings in more than $4 million

A natural gas well.
World Resources Institute

The Michigan Department of Natural Resources auctioned off state-owned oil and natural gas drilling rights on more than 90,000 acres yesterday.

Here’s a recap of the auction results:

  • Total acres up for auction: 108,164.70
  • Total acres leased: 91,225.42
  • Total money raised: $4,118,848.60
  • Average bid per acre: $39.90

These auctions are typically held twice per year, in May and October.

The money raised from these biannual auctions has been steadily increasing since 2000, hitting peaks in 2008 and 2010.

In the first auction of 2008, the state leased all of the 149,000 available acres for more than $13 million. The last time the state had a 100 percent lease rate was in 1981.

The first auction in 2010 had a 99.6 percent lease rate and raised an unprecedented amount: more than $178 million.

The average bid per acre for that auction was $1,507, which far exceeds the average bids at any other auctions over the last 10 years, all of which have been under $100.

-Suzanne Jacobs, Michigan Radio Newsroom

Environment & Science
10:23 am
Tue May 8, 2012

"No Sale, No Fracking"

Anti-fracking protesters stand outside of Constitutional Hall in Lansing
(photo by Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio)

People opposed to a natural gas drilling technique called hydraulic fracturing protested outside a state office building in Lansing this morning. 

The state is auctioning off oil and gas mineral rights leases for more 100 thousand acres of public land.

The protesters chanted as energy industry and state government officials entered the building where the auction of oil and gas mineral rights leases was taking place.

The protesters worry drillers will use horizontal hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, to extract natural gas in Michigan, potentially contaminating drinking water and causing other environmental problems.

LuAnne Cozma is an anti-fracking activist.  She says state regulations are geared to help the industry, not to protect the people of Michigan.
 
“The gas is drilled…the more gas flows…the more money flows into the (state government) coffers…and that is why we don’t trust the whole process," says Cozma.

The protesters are circulating petitions to put an Anti-fracking question on the November ballot.

Environment & Science
8:55 am
Tue May 8, 2012

Michigan DNR puts oil and gas drilling rights on the auction block

A map of the counties where drilling rights are up for auction today.
DNR

Starting at 9am this morning, the Michigan Department of Natural Resources will hold an auction to lease state-owned drilling rights for oil and natural gas. 

The state is offering drilling rights on more than 108,000 acres in 23 counties.  These auctions are usually held twice a year.  The minimum bid is $12 dollars an acre.

Mary Uptigrove is the acting manager of the DNR’s Minerals Management Section.  She says acquiring drilling rights is the first step in exploring for oil and gas.

“The lease is just a proprietary right that’s administered by our department. It does not give them the right to actually start drilling a well.  They have to seek other approvals from the Department of Environmental Quality for the drilling permit.”

The leases last five years, and the companies have the option to extend them.

Uptigrove says industry groups usually nominate parcels for the auction.  The state gets 1/6 of the royalties of any oil or gas that comes out of the ground.  That money is used to maintain state and local parks and to buy land.

Maryann Lesert lives near the Yankee Springs Recreation Area in Barry County. 

She’s worried the auction will lead to drilling under the park land... especially a kind of drilling for natural gas called horizontal hydraulic fracturing, or fracking. (To learn more, check out this recent article by Michigan Radio's Lester Graham about the benefits and risks of fracking)

“It’s beautiful land, it has beautiful bodies of water and the environmental and water impact threats from fracking are of great concern.”

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Environment & Science
5:48 pm
Mon May 7, 2012

State poised to lease oil and gas rights for public lands

Protesters are expected Tuesday morning outside of a planned auction of oil and natural gas lease rights on public land.

Lease rights on more than 100 thousand acres of public land will be available in the auction in Lansing.

Mary Uptigrove is the acting manager of the Minerals Management Section of the Department of Natural Resources.    She says much of the land on the auction list is there by the request of the drilling industry.

“They may know…areas where… current development is occurring….and they want to explore for additional development,” says Uptigrove. 

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Environment
5:12 pm
Fri May 4, 2012

As fracking debate continues in Michigan, Obama weighs in

A natural gas well.
World Resources Institute

Hydraulic fracturing or "fracking" has created no shortage of controversy recently. And as Michigan Radio's Rebecca Williams reported last week, debate over this controversial method of extracting oil and gas from deep inside shale deposits has made its way to the Michigan statehouse.

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Environment
7:11 pm
Thu March 8, 2012

An angry, overflow crowd grills oil company execs about drilling in the Irish Hills

West Bay Exploration vice president Tim Baker uses a laser pointer to show the audience how they are drilling for oil in the Irish Hills.
(photo by Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio)

An overflow crowd filled a public meeting last night in Brooklyn, south of Jackson.    Many in the crowd are worried about the environmental impact of a growing oil drilling operation in the Irish Hills.

"There is nothing they can do here to keep from having an accident...It's going to happen," proclaimed one of the people in the audience. 

The crowd at the public meeting demanded answers from a panel of oil industry executives and state officials about drilling going on in the Irish Hills.   The region is becoming one of the leading crude oil production centers in Michigan.  

Tim Baker is a vice president with West Bay Exploration, the company doing much of the drilling.    He admits they need to do a better job explaining how they are trying to drill safely.

“These people have a lot of good questions.  This is a beautiful area.  There’s a lot of beautiful lakes and streams here," Baker said after the meeting, "We wanted to communicate to them that we are trying to develop (the oil) the best way possible.”  

 Many Irish Hills residents are worried oil drilling may end up lowering their property values.