Rochester Council Approves Restrictions on Oil and Natural Gas Drilling

By Paul Kampe, The Oakland Press

In a unanimous vote at Monday’s meeting, Rochester City Council passed thorough regulations regarding oil and natural gas drilling in the city after more than six months of deliberation.

Leaders in neighboring Rochester Hills are also fine-tuning similar regulations and both cities have enacted moratoriums on the activity.

Despite the difference in area – Rochester Hills has more than 70,000 residents in nearly 33 square miles to Rochester’s approximately 13,000 residents in roughly four square miles – their efforts to regulate oil and gas drilling are similar.

In particular, each city is trying to push the activity to industrial areas in their southern portions.

Rochester’s legislation has other unique limitations, though, notably a $250,000 cash deposit payable to the city in the event of damage to city-owned property or roads.

Also, developers will be required to provide 30 days written notice to any residents within 2,000 feet of the boundary of a prospective drilling site.

The city also requires prospective drillers file an application noting the potential location of work prior to beginning a project. They must submit several reports and studies regarding the environmental impact of any planned projects, including plans to manage:

• Pollution

• Water management

• Waste disposal

• Noise management

• Erosion and sedimentation control

• Site restoration

The ordinance also requires a timeline and activity schedule as well as a report detailing the drilling site and its proximity to other properties and their uses.

The law more than doubles the state’s minimum requirement for setback distances between properties and adjoining drill sites, requiring 1,000 feet of separation from residentially zoned property, schools, hospitals and religious institutions.

Further, horizontal drilling operations will be required to have a 500-foot setback distance.

The city expects developers to adhere to best practices regarding dust, odor and vibration issued by the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality in recent months.

Landscaping and fencing are also required to be installed around the perimeter of the drill site.

The city’s department of public works will have authority to dictate which roads are designated for commercial vehicle traffic related to drilling activity.

City officials have also reserved the right to inspect the drilling site at any time.

Like the prospective ordinance in Rochester Hills, the ordinance passed by Rochester officials also prohibits the use of injection wells as well as hydraulic fracturing, or “fracking.”

Leaders in both communities began drafting legislation last summer. Officials in Rochester Hills have been the target of a pair of residents’ lawsuits, both of which have been dismissed by Oakland County Circuit Court judges.

The suits alleged Rochester Hills leaders violated the city’s charter in leasing city-owned property to a northern Michigan company.

Auburn Hills has a similar ordinance and nearby Troy is also working on its own regulations.

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