Road Commission unanimously rejects oil and gas lease for Saline Township property
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 “NoPaxton.com” 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 AnnArbor.com. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.