Rep. Webber unveils measure to protect rights of residents during drilling operations

Drilling operations in Metro Detroit would have to stay at least 1,000 feet away from residential homes under House Bill 4260, which was unveiled on Thursday by Rep. Michael Webber, according to a press release.

Michigan cities, villages and townships currently have little say in drilling operations within their community, but after concerns were raised in 2014, a work group including the DEQ was formed and rules were established by DEQ that apply only to Metro Detroit communities. While those rules call for greater public notice and transparency, the recommended setback requirement still needs to be extended in high-density residential areas.

“I appreciate the work of DEQ and the administration to recognize the difference between urban and rural oil and gas exploration in Michigan,” said Rep. Webber, R-Rochester Hills. “While the increased setback requirement discussed in the work group was not incorporated into the rules, I am hopeful that with this legislation we will be able to provide that protection for residents.”

Rep. Webber said his bill still allows drilling to occur, but consent would have to be granted for operations closer than 1,000 feet from residential properties.

“Drilling in Michigan is a way to decrease our dependence on foreign oil, which I think most will agree is important. This legislation will allow that while making sure the operating practices of drilling companies are also in the best interest for the community,” said Rep. Webber. “I support property rights and the ability to lease your individual minerals. But I believe that 21st century technology demonstrates that we can strike that balance between safety and energy need.”

Rochester Hills and Rochester residents are at risk of being negatively impacted by the potential drilling operations in the community. Legislation was proposed last session to grant more authority to local units of government regarding drilling operations, however, the bills failed to get out of the Senate.

Rep. Webber is working with his colleagues on the legislation, particularly those in Metro Detroit. “Oil and gas exploration is coming to more and more high-density residential areas, so we need to have the proper safeguards and protections in place now,” he said.

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