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Posted on Wed, Mar 21, 2012 : 4:24 p.m.

Road Commission unanimously rejects oil and gas lease for Saline Township property

By Lisa Allmendinger

A potential oil and gas lease agreement for a small piece of land on Willow Road in Saline Township owned by the Washtenaw County Road Commission prompted at least a half dozen people to speak in opposition at Tuesday afternoon’s meeting.

County Commissioner Wes Prater said he’s been trying to get a work session of the County Commissioners and the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality to discuss regulations for energy exploration throughout the county.

While speaking in opposition to approval of the lease he said, “What concerns me the most is the water supply.”

Some of those people who spoke are members of a growing number of Lodi and Saline township residents who are fighting oil and gas drilling in the area.

Mitchell Rode, a member of the group with the website “” said residents are concerned about “the destruction of land, roads, water and air,” in the area and called the planned drilling operation “a threat to properties and the area.”

Brent Bartson, who rides his bike in the area, said that he has smelled “hydrocarbons” in the air and is strongly opposed to this lease.

Other speakers said that representatives from the company have been misrepresenting themselves when talking to land owners. Those that spoke said they are afraid that approval of the lease will set a precedent for further oil exploration in the county.

Gregory J. Vadnais, a representative from the company, said he’s personally dealt with the land owners who have signed the leases. “I’ve driven to people’s homes to explain it to them,” he said.

Although admitting that “this business is not risk-free,” he said that the industry is heavily regulated.

The Road Commission was the lone hold-out to sign a lease and represents “a 1,000th of a percent of the entire (160 acre) unit (in Saline Township) that’s being worked on,” he said.

Vadnais said the company has signed leases with 99.99 percent of the landowners, who have been calling him to find out when the operations will begin.

He said the company has about 26,000 acres in Washtenaw County and drilling goes down about 3,100 feet into limestone formations.

The lease agreement for 0.178 acre was originally on the consent agenda, but was moved to an action item and then unanimously rejected.

However, this might not be the end of it. Vadnais said even without the Road Commission’s approval, the company still can go to the state and effectively force the issue through “compulsory pooling.”

Lisa Allmendinger is a regional reporter for She can be reached at



Thu, Mar 29, 2012 : 12:24 a.m.

I just read through the Saline Township board minutes and it appears that the board has authorized oil studies right near the township hall. From the October 2011 meeting notes at "Paxton Oil – Supervisor Marion signed an agreement so the Paxton could began size-magraphing around the Saline Township Hall." (note: "size-magraphing" I am reading as "seismographic studies"). Interesting that some of the folks financially benefiting from these wells are also elected officials for Saline Township. More of the same to come, as others from our board have signed leases as well.


Fri, Mar 23, 2012 : 6:03 p.m.

Our domestic drilling will NEVER effect our prices at the pump nor will it end our dependance on foreign oil sorry but its the truth . I live in the Irish Hills and though I would not tell someone what to do with their own property it is very scary to think that some of these operation can or will eventually effect our water it is envitable. For some of you bashers saying things like shut up and deal with it and if you have a family, children ect. would it be worth it to you to have this so close to your residence would YOU never wonder what effects it may have on your loved ones? If one of your loved ones suddenly go ill would you never look back and wonder and could YOU live with that not me. Just this last year the state was going to ban burning trash in a drum because of emmissions and some areas now will not allow outdoor woodboilers for the same reason but now there are 42 flare stacks spewing god knows what into our local air and that is OK why MONEY !!! That is it MONEY for individuals money for the state and governments if something goes wrong it is also going to take money to fix it but it is too late if you have been drinking benzene and who knows what else and it DOES happen. Just take a second and look at this


Fri, Mar 23, 2012 : 10:34 p.m.

That's quite a utube video: Thanks for sharing it. Feel sick saying 'thanks' because what's happened to the Smith's is incomprehensible. And this is suppose to be acceptable? And you shouldn't speak out against someone or something knowingly destroying you and your loved ones and everything else in your environment? Insane. That's the insanity -- that people believe they shouldn't stand up and speak out. Here's a site that is long overdue for Michigan-- especially when you live here. Have you seen this site specifically about Michigan fracking?

Holly Taylor

Fri, Mar 23, 2012 : 2:39 p.m.

The road commission is right to voice concern for the quality of the water. The EPA has stated that "50% of well casings will fail over time." The well casing is the only thing protecting your water. No group of land owners should have the right to endanger the drinking water of tens of thousands of people. While the oil industry may be heavily regulated, it has been exempted from complying with the clean air and water acts in Michigan. Our true wealth is in our water, not the oil and gas.


Fri, Mar 23, 2012 : 4:01 a.m.

Now we're talking. Check this out. A radio frequency generator burns salt water for electricity . Salt water-- a clean fuel! Imagine the possibilites.


Fri, Mar 23, 2012 : 3:39 a.m.

36 Years of Statistics Belie Political Rhetoric-- very informative. Found this on Michigan Radio.


Thu, Mar 22, 2012 : 5:27 p.m.

These people should read about what and how far the chemicals that Gelman pumped into the ground on their Wagner rd property and the look at the map that shows how far the contamination has spread and the cleanup costs.


Thu, Mar 22, 2012 : 5:17 p.m.

It isn't just drilling they want to do fracturing , this is where they pump DANGEROUS chemicals into the ground to fracture the limestone and force the oil and gas out. gOOGLE oil fracturing , SAYNOTO PAXTON READ UP ON THEIR PRACTICES. Do you want these chemicals next to or mixed in your drinking water?


Thu, Mar 22, 2012 : 2:21 p.m.

I like low gas prices as much as the next guy - but I doubt that all this drilling would reduce the price much if at all. It's a global market, and the oil companies would just as soon ship any lower cost oil over seas than try to lower my fuel cost, or make the US "energy independent". I live in the Irish Hills, and we were approached by West Bay drilling co. for a lease on our property. We refused. I've seen the glaring lights and natural gas flares, and it's not the kind of place I want to live. I'll pay the higher gas prices.


Thu, Mar 22, 2012 : 2:08 p.m.

There is an interesting book that addresses some of the issues and feelings about this subject that may apply to what is now going on in the Irish Hills (and elsewhere ... worldwide). The book is "The End of Country: Dispatches from the Frack Zone" by Seamus McGraw (can be found on Amazon). It is his take on the in-and-outs of the constant search for energy (in his case in Pennsylvania), but has wider application now that the search is "in our backyard". Of particular interest may be the environmental fallout and any pretence of being able to contain it to a specific plot/area of land (not really possible, even with strict regulations). The question is: Are the short term economic benefits worth the long term effects on the environment and community? Unfortunately there is no definite right-or-wrong in this debate, just point-of-view (which will definitely be different depending on whether it is "in your backyard").


Thu, Mar 22, 2012 : 11:39 a.m.

Yep, regulated and inspected. See Kalamazoo River


Thu, Mar 22, 2012 : 4:36 a.m.

IISPIER, You must have me confused with some other. I don't live on Evans Lake. On May 2011, down from the corner of Hane Hwy. and Indian Trail, at Judson Collins Methodist Camp, you would have experienced flaring of methane gas 30 feet into the atmosphere, 24/7 for weeks. To your left is the leveled pine forest with another industrial site. Both flank the road leading to cottages on Iron Lake. Wetlands are a stone's throw away. Wamplers Lake Road and Ladd Road house impressive tank farms, hidden behind berms. Ladd Road will be home to one of two deep injection waste disposal wells. Due to community concern, an EPA public hearing is being scheduled. The other disposal well is on Palmer Road, in the River Raisin Flood Plain, surrounded by nothing but water. If you're unfamiliar with the importance of the River Raisin Watershed, it's worth looking into, as it drains an area of 1,072 square miles in Michigan, affecting Lenawee, Monroe, Washtenaw, Jackson, Hillsdale and a portion of Ohio. The Irish Hills now has 42 wells- more to follow. Jackson County/Norvell Township has led the State in crude oil production during the first six months of 2011. Development of the 42 wells began in Spring 2010. Crude oil production in Lenawee County's Adrian field exploded in the first half of 2011, increasing nearly 17-fold from 13,649 barrels in the first half of 2010. Get a bird's eye view. Type in 13150 Wamplers Lake Road 49230 in Google Earth. Also check out the green dots (active wells) on:


Fri, Mar 23, 2012 : 12:22 a.m.

I'm not confused, Pamela. You've spent a full two years fighting oil exploration in the area. Now, using your membership in the Irish Hills Water Keepers, you've switched from attempting to prevent drilling to preventing brine disposal via injection wells. I am fully aware of the River Raisin 'watershed'. I am also aware that not one square inch of land in Michigan is NOT designated a watershed: If you park your car in the same place every day, and a depression develops that collects water during a rainstorm, that is technically a watershed. We have extensive wetlands here-nearly all on private property. West Bay has met all legal requirements for drilling, transporting and disposing of production-related products and byproducts. Yet your group has tried to convince people that fracking is going on-which it is not, that the environment is being destroyed-which it is not, and that your rights are being violated-which is also untrue. Your group has frightened the property owners, called in the EPA (who assured you everything was legal and protected) and done everything in your power to prevent oil exploration and recovery in the area. I know exact;y where these locations are: I live here, too . . .very close to the Palmer Rd location. And, no, I dont have any land leased. The issue here is you and your group are trying to interfere with the property rights of those who HAVE leased to West Bay . . .that's less about preserving the environment single-handedly and more about your innate desire to control other people. All active drilling will be done in a couple more years, then you can quit fussing about the trucks, the oil rigs and you'll likely forget all about the injection wells. In the meantime, I suggest you take up a hobby-like feeding the homeless, or providing jobs to the many unemployed in Jackson County. Because what you're doing certainly isnt helping them either.


Thu, Mar 22, 2012 : 12:58 a.m.

Your neighbor, the Irish Hills, is best described as a densely populated community surrounded by water: wetlands, rivers, lakes, ponds, streams and swamps. It's all about water and all who live there depend on wells. This is a tourist destination, known for water sports, hunting, camping and nature appreciation. All of us have chosen to live here. This is our home. Many of us did not chose industrial sites nestled in our farmlands; or to witness and smell methane flaring 24/7 in the cleared pine forests; or to visit swans, cranes, and ducks in the wetlands, while diesel trucks rumble over deteriorating country roads. For two years, I have lived with the stress of watching my community deteriorate into nothing more than a commodity traded for profit. The domestic tranquility I once felt, has been marginalized for profit. What part of this picture is ethically right? That a company by State law has the right 'to foster the development of the (oil/gas) industry along the most favorable conditions and with a view to the ultimate recovery of the maximum production of these natural products', at the expense of annihilating a community's identity and pitting neighbor against neighbor? Resource colonialism is no good. It stinks just like the methane fumes wafting through the air. For a more detailed account of what's transforming the Irish Hills, read the March 18th, Sunday Free Press.


Thu, Mar 22, 2012 : 1:43 a.m.

For heavens sakes, Pam . . you live at Evans Lake. There arent even any wells around you. No 'pine forests' have been chopped down, and the wetlands you are apparently referring to are on private property! They are also being well-protected by State oversight. If you're living with stress from having oil and gas wells near you-on private property on which people voluntarily signed mineral leases with the full knowledge of what they entailed, I think maybe you need treatment for that unfocused anxiety. You cant control the world and you're making yourself physically sick, apparently, in trying to do so.As for pitting neighbor against neighbor, the eco-group you're affiliated with has done a pretty good job of that by spreading false and misleading 'information' to the unsuspecting. There's a point at which 'poetic license' becomes outright lies. Ethically, you dont have any right to attempt to control what others do.


Thu, Mar 22, 2012 : 12:41 a.m.

This is money for local government coffers. Everyone cries about gas prices and cuts to the government; I'm sick and tired of hearing about it. Let those who protest it come up with the monthly royalties and pay for our services. And while they're at it maybe they can send some of their hard eaarned cash to the Saudi's and let other countries have those jobs. This si getting out of hand and nobody is complaining about it............What happened to our country?


Thu, Mar 22, 2012 : 12:10 a.m.

Ok, I don't want drilling in my back yard so lets send all he money to the middle east and keep buying their oil. Give me a break people, if it were your land and you stood to get checks from the lease, I bet you would suddenly think it was a great idea! Lets keep the oil money here, not in the middle east or Venezuela.


Wed, Mar 21, 2012 : 9:07 p.m.

Hmmm not sure what to make of this. We all want lower gas prices and lower heating costs but we are not willing to do anything to make changes. Can't run our homes off batteries.