It's ball one in Scio Township. A Traverse City-based oil and gas company was looking for a strike as it dug its first exploratory well in search of fossil fuel deposits, but missed the plate. Some local lawmakers and drilling opponents now hope to get on base in Lansing.
An out of the park shot would be a halt to further exploration until communities are given a say in what does and does not take place within their borders. That's the message the grassroots group Citizens for Oil-Free Backyards has been pushing since West Bay started seeking permits to drill in Scio Township.
State Representative Gretchen Driskell has been working on the issue of mineral rights extraction since early this year. That's when a gravel mine was proposed in Lyndon Township. She represents both Scio and Lyndon Township in the 52nd house district. The Saline Democrat says there has to be a balance. "There could be some zoning, some setback requirements, some other, to just give townships an opportunity because the biggest problem right now is the zoning enabling act. Townships don't have the ability to have any kind of regulation around accessing natural resources," Driskell says.
Driskell says she's been working with Ann Arbor State Senator Rebekah Warren and other lawmakers on the issue but they don't have a final draft bill yet.
The President of Citizens for Oil-Free Backyards says that's one step. Laura Robinson says she'd like to stretch that single into a double by adding changes to the Natural Resources and Environmental Protection Act. "There's some really important pieces there that have to do with how DEQ regulates oil and gas, and a lot of pieces of that in our opinion really should be changed in order to help protect citizens and the environment," Robinson says.
A rally against oil drilling in residential areas is planned Tuesday afternoon at the state capital. Robinson says Scio Township residents need to remain vigilant because one dry well doesn't mean there won't be future attempts to drill.
West Bay officials say additional drilling in Scio Township is unlikely in the foreseeable future.