We, Nopaxton.com, are a growing group of Lodi and Saline residents that are concerned about the impact that oil and gas drilling and associated operations may have on our land and environment. Those who live here appreciate the natural beauty, clean water and air, and relative peace and quiet, and want to keep it that way. Based on substantial freely and publicly available information, it is clear that exploitation of oil, gas, and other mineral resources under our land may result in a variety of unintended, unwelcome side-effects, and we do not intend to allow that to happen.

If you live in Lodi or Saline and have been approached by a company calling itself Paxton Resources, or are concerned about potential side-effects of oil and gas drilling on your or your neighbors properties and want to learn more, please contact us at: nopaxton at gmail dot com

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Recap of April 5 Meeting in Brooklyn

This post has been updated to include a link to the Powerpoint slides presented by Dr. Chris Grobbel. (scroll down, it is the first item in the list)

Members of NoPaxton attended a meeting in Brooklyn on April 5 where local citizens expressed their concerns over two proposed deep injection wells in Norvell Township.  These wells are proposed by the oil companies for storing toxic waste related to local drilling efforts.  This was the 3rd meeting held on this topic.  It was jam packed with good information but very scary information. 

Chris Grobbel  of Grobbel Environmental was brought in  to speak at the meeting.  Chris is a Phd, teaches at MSU and has worked for the DEQ and in other oil and gas industry concerns in the past. He has quit working for the oil industry and now consults on the side of the environment and teaches. 

In his past career with the DEQ Chris wore a haz-mat suit and participated in cleaning up oil spills.  He has alot of insider information on the DEQ and confirmed some rumors we have heard regarding the DEQ in the past.  Now we know these rumors to be true, Chris confirmed them with dates and facts.  A video recording of his slides will be available soon at Ban Michigan Fracking

The main points we took from the meeting include:

1)  The DEQ keeps saying that 'none of the thousands of wells that have been fracked or drilled for oil have any record of contaminating water or leaking'. We all know this is not true.   Chris gave evidence for that. The DEQ only monitors wellheads and officially they quit doing this in 1995 (that's when they deleted their database called the SAPP list which kept records on contamination. The truth of the matter is that the spills/leaks don't happen at the wellhead. They happen due to human error, from hauling oil/waste, from pipelines and spills on site when someone fills a tanker and leaves a valve open. In reality the number is probably in the thousands. He helped clean up some of them, and he provided expert opinions (for the property owners) in cases where there were spills and  leaks and the DEQ wasn't cleaning it up. He even showed the names of some of the cases. Some cases he couldn't name (due to legal restrictions) but he described the situations.   Some were so bad people had to abandon their homes. 

2) In 2001 there was a study done by Alliance for Great Lakes on 3000 sites in Michigan. There were 200 contaminations from those 3000 sites. Out of the 200, 25% contaminated drinking water, 2% were attempted cleanups, 21% had no action and 0% were fully remediated (we believe the rest were unknown outcomes).

3) There is an internal (non public) list of contaminations the DEQ keeps (since deleting their DB in 1995) and it is purported to have 700 sites with  contamination.  If you extrapolate from the data in, today there are 28,000 wells in Michigan so we could have 1800 contaminated sites from those 28,000 wells.
4) Now the only way to determine how many and where there are contaminated sites is via a FOIA (freedom of information act) request and you have to know  what your looking for.
5)  The OOMG (Office of Oil Gas & Minerals - part of DEQ). does some cleanup and they are known to do the 'wet finger' test.  They figure out which way the wind is blowing and they sniff the air (no  kidding). Rarely, do they do the proper type of soil sampling to see if they've done a job properly. Chris cited one legal case he got involved in where he went to check a site (that was supposedly cleaned-up) and there was crude oil leaking out of the ground and into a stream.  He shared these examples of oil spills in Michigan with us:

  • Example #1 - 'Hayes 22 Central Production' site example (Gaylord) there were 60 separate events of release of contamination. 3 landowners had to have their drinking water wells closed. A computer model of the contamination showed it would take 20-30 years to clean it up. I think these were the homeowners he cited that got into a lawsuit and had their houses bought by the oil company because they couldn't live in them or sell them to anyone.
  • Example #2 - Most of the time the leaks are discovered by landowners, hunters or snowmobilers. Snowmobiler finds brine leaking, it's described by the DEQ as 40 gallons (they don't have to report less than 41 gallons). In reality it was over 400 (it was melting a huge swath of snow).
  • Example #3 - Dairy farmer has a leak on his property. They discover crude leaking on the surface and benzene in the creek.

That harmless brine that the DEQ refers to often... Chris showed a slide of all the chemicals in the brine and it covered the screen. Its' not  Morton salt.  Basically, don't trust the regulator!  (his actual words)

FRACKING
All fracking is not the same. Most of the older wells that have been fracked up north, in Antrim shale, are shallow. Much less risky than what's being done in the main target layer now (the Utica/Collingwood shale layer). The fracking being done in Utica/Collingwood is much deeper, therefore more toxic fluids (millions of gallons) and more opportunity for spills and leaks (it's human error afterall that's the main culprit). Up north only 3 wells are fracked in deep Utica/Collingwood layer. This is the deep hydro-fracking that really has everyone concerned.

Deep, high pressure hydro-fracking wells are not regulated like deep injection wells. They are treated like a conventional oil well. They should (presumably) be treated with the same regulation as an injection well since they are under the same sorts of stress (pressures and volumes).

There is no fracking in this area yet but the oil wells in the Irish hills area could easily be converted into fracking wells (they are in the right layer). The only thing that stops the oil companies from doing this is the price of natural gas and a deep injection well (to get rid of the millions of gallons of contaminated water they will create). Once they're done with the oil, and the price of natural gas goes up, fracking will probably begin.

INJECTION WELLS
Deep injection wells are proposed by applicant (oil developer), approved by DEQ and then the EPA. When the DEQ has a public 'hearing' on deep injection well proposal they only listen, give no response, and then they go away and make their ruling.

They were proposing two injection wells for toxic waste store in Norvell. Norvell township supervisor discovered after calling DEQ that now they are proposing 3. He also discovered that the DEQ had already approved them (when he told the audience this at the meeting there was a gasp). People were extremely alarmed to discover that the DEQ had approved the wells before the EPA had their public hearing.

Injection wells are typically class I or class II. Class I is most toxic. Michigan has 1500 class II but only 7 class I. A class II can be converted into a class I.

THE GOOD NEWS
Grobbel cited 2 cases where public hearings on deep injection wells had gone in favor of the public (denying the applicant/oil company) and he said that the best tactic to use is to get people to go to the meeting and speak and write to disapprove (fill the room with people). These were in Alba and Kingsley (although Kingsley was ruling by judge and a strange one).

Mayfield Township in Traverse City has created effective zoning ordinances to keep oil developers out. But it's very tricky and needs to be part of the master plan.   Dr. Grobbels' slides have been posted on the Resources page of Ban Michigan Fracking.

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