Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Oil boom in Irish Hills hits close to home

The following has been the most popular story on the Detroit Free Press site since yesterday morning, when I first read it.

Oil boom fears flow in pristine Irish Hills
By Tina Lam
March 18, 2012
BROOKLYN, Mich. -- Bringing with it concerns about potential earthquakes, contaminated drinking water and dangerous spills, an oil boom has hit the popular, pristine vacation destination of the Irish Hills in Jackson and Lenawee counties.

Tall rigs punch holes among lakes and wetlands, and gas flares light up the night sky.

In Adrian, rows of pink flags mark the spots where oil companies are doing seismic testing to determine whether there's oil below homes. Schools and colleges have leased out lands for oil drilling. Horses gaze across fields to pumping oil derricks.

The boom that began with discoveries of oil near tiny Napoleon three years ago has made Jackson County the state's top oil producer. It produces about 2% of the oil customers consume statewide, a company executive said. Manistee County in northern Michigan is the second-highest producer, and Lenawee County is third.

But some say the growing string of more than 60 oil wells in a diagonal line across Jackson and Lenawee counties -- in the midst of summer cottages and lakeside pubs -- shouldn't be happening. Along with promises of fattened bank accounts and higher tax revenues, there is alarm about deep-injection wells planned for drilling waste, which have been tied to earthquakes elsewhere, and about oil spills in this watery paradise, where everyone gets their water from wells.

"Even the guys collecting oil checks have got to feel some regret," said John Bancroft, a former Troy teacher who retired and built his dream home in the Irish Hills. "What they did changed everybody's life."
I lived in the Irish Hills for seven years, so this hits close to home. In fact, one of the wells is just on the other side of the nearest highway from my old house. It freaks me out a bit to think that none of these wells were there when I moved out the area in 2007. At least there's no fracking--yet.

Read the rest of the article. It's well worth it and also will keep a local sustainability and energy story high up in the site's rankings.

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