May 14, 2013 1 Comment
Cannon Township last night passed West Michigan’s first municipal-level moratorium on hydraulic fracturing; Detroit was the first Michigan municipality to pass a resolution calling for a ban of the practice. The Cannon moratorium will prevent the township from considering any and all applications or requests in support of oil and gas extraction for a period of six months while it considers more appropriate regulations.
A recent survey of county deeds revealed that Cannon Township was among the communities in Kent County with the highest concentration of properties leased for potential fracking.
The moratorium does not supersede state authority on oil and gas regulation. According to township attorney James Scales of Mika Meyers Becket & Jones PLC, the original law enabling Michigan townships to regulate land use through zoning specifically exempted oil and gas drilling operations from local control, and that right has been preserved in the modern-day Michigan Zoning Establishing Act.
However, courts have ruled that the law “does not exempt all aspects of the oil and gas industry from local regulation.” While it is theoretically possible for a well to proceed based on approval from the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality’s Supervisor of Wells, there are many instances in which a well operator would need to seek approval or applicable permits from the township before proceeding. The moratorium lists “applications, proposals, requests for zoning approval, zoning or other permits, or similar review and approval by the Township of any oil and gas well, or facilities or operations ancillary to the operation of such wells which are subject to Township regulation.”
Of course, the moratorium is designed to provide the township time to enact stronger regulations on the practice. Ideally, the moratorium will be replaced by permanent regulations that limit the environmental impact of oil and gas exploration in Cannon Township. At least one other local community has already enacted regulations of this sort: Orangeville Township in Barry County last month passed a new ordinance aimed at protecting its community from the potential impacts of fracking truck traffic.
The township has scheduled an informational meeting with FLOW for Michigan to discuss the moratorium on May 22 from 10 am to noon at the Cannon Township Center (6878 Belding Road). Location to be determined. FLOW and local grassroots group Citizens for Responsible Resource Management were instrumental in passing the moratorium.
You may let Township Supervisor Steve Grimm know that you support the moratorium and the township’s pending efforts to improve regulations with our online action form here.
The moratorium text and a letter of support from the township attorney are available for download here (PDF).