State approves oil well permit for Scio Township

Jul 3, 2014

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.

"We've seen that in the Irish Hills, where folks are obviously nervous about a new activity, we saw it in Adrian, and it does quiet down over time once they see what it is and they have familiarity."

One of the biggest fears of opponents is the possibility of an oil spill.  Wygant says there have been no oil spills from drilling in Michigan since the 1980's, when the state changed requirements for spill containment.

Storage tanks must have lined pits under them, "so if there's spills now they're typically isolated and easy to clean up."

Laura Robinson is with Citizens for Oil-Free Backyards.  She says the state's decision was expected, but her group believes there are still deficiencies in the permit application in terms of accuracy and completeness. 

The group's attorneys are considering options for a possible next step.

State law allows cities, but not townships or villages, to ban oil and gas drilling.

Citizens for Oil-Free Backyards believes any community should be able to ban drilling.