There are several new developments regarding the potential drilling for oil and gas in Oakland Township. As previously reported, one property owner signed a lease agreement with West Bay Exploration Company. The property involved in that agreement is 3700 Dutton Road.
It was discovered that West Bay Exploration Company also recorded another agreement on May 11, 2015. This lease agreement is with the Oakland Christian Church located at the southwest corner of Silverbell and Adams Road.
Here is a map showing the location of the two properties:
(click to enlarge image)
At the June 15, 2015 Rochester Hill City Council meeting, there were approximately 12 Rochester Hills citizens that expressed concerns over the possible drilling at the Dutton Road location, which is near Musson Elementary School in our Township. In anticipation of the outpouring of citizen concerns for drilling at that location, Mayor Barnett contacted West Bay Exploration Company earlier that day to understand their drilling intentions. Mayor Barnett indicated that West Bay said there was “no interest in doing anything at that site” and “they are planning to ‘pull’ all of (their) Northern Oakland County activities”. Barnett asked that they document that intention in writing.
Mayor Barnett later explained the history behind the volatile issue of drilling in Rochester Hills. He stated Rochester Hills has taken very aggressive steps to protect the citizens from drilling in Rochester Hills through their recent ordinance changes. He indicated that their ordinances may be challenged in court. He went on to explain the delicate balance between the rights of property owners vs. protecting the larger community against indiscriminate drilling in the community. He feels Rochester Hills has done everything they can do, but have no control over what happens in Oakland Township.
Here is a copy of the Dutton Road lease agreement:
Here is a copy of the Oakland Christian Church lease agreement:
Here is a video of Mayor Barnett’s comments based on his discussion with West Bay Exploration Company:
Here is a link to a June 16th Oakland Press article regarding West Bay Exploration Company’s intention to pull out of area:
Here is a video of Mayor Barnett’s comments on how Rochester Hills has done everything they can to control drilling in their community, but has no authority to address the Oakland Township location. This is a very good description of what the property owner and community challenges are on this issue. It is 11 minutes long, but well worth the time to become familiar with this issue:
Why is this important to the citizens of Oakland Township? West Bay Exploration Company’s stated intentions may give Oakland Township an opportunity to ‘shore up’ our ordinances to the fullest extent allowed by law to protect our community from indiscriminate drilling. Mr. Barnett indicated that the smaller communities, like Oakland Township, have fewer things they can do to protect their communities. We trust that the Board will work with our Attorney, the Township Planner and our neighboring communities to come up with ordinance changes that maximize our control over these facilities.
We may have bought some time as a result of West Bay’s current position, but there are other oil drilling companies that may not have made the same decision. Also, when the price of oil goes up, it may be financially advantageous for the oil drilling company to ‘renege’ on their stated current position.
It is hard to understand why West Bay would record their lease agreements with the County and only one month later, indicate that they have no intention of exercising them. Let’s make sure Oakland Township takes advantage of West Bay’s stated decision by officially making a motion to place a short moratorium on drilling in Oakland Township, much like Rochester Hills and Shelby did, so we have time to work on our ordinances.
The balance between individual property rights and the welfare of the community is one that may pit neighbor against neighbor. The Board must look at all the options and proactively deal with this issue before the oil drilling companies start operations near sensitive areas in our Township. The current plan for linking the community water wells for many of the subdivisions in the Southwest portion of the Township could factor into what the Township does on drilling for oil and gas.
If you are a concerned about how Oakland Township handles this issue, please come to the June 23rd Oakland Township Board meeting at 7 PM. The recent lease filings and West Bay’s announcement may be a ‘warning shot’ for Oakland Township. Complacency is not appropriate at this time. Trustee Bailey has asked that this issue be placed on the agenda for next Tuesday, so let’s support him. Here is a copy of the agenda: