Michigan Land Use Institute

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A Summary of the Pigeon River Plan

The final Pigeon River Hydrocarbon Development Plan of 1980 required energy companies to:

• Restrict oil and gas development to the southern third of the Pigeon River Country State Forest, and leave the northern two-thirds undeveloped. Wetlands and low-lying areas also were off-limits to exploration and drilling.

• Prepare a complete plan of development, showing the locations of well sites, roads, production facilities, and pipelines, and submit it to the state for review.

• Submit to monitoring and oversight by the Pigeon River Country Advisory Council.

• Pool their resources in a "unitization" agreement. One company, Shell Oil, was responsible for developing and managing oil and gas production in the forest. Expenses and profits were shared among all the lease-holders according to an agreed-upon formula.

• Move in sequence from south to north in the designated drilling zone, and allow time for detailed planning for each major exploration and production step.

• Drill multiple wells from a single site wherever it was possible.

• Keep road rights-of-way to 15 to 20 feet, and pipeline rights-of-way at 10 to 20 feet.

• Limit noise from wells, pumps, and processing installations.

• Bore under streams when laying pipelines.

• Minimize the number of stream crossings.

• Build bridges for new roads instead of installing culverts (aluminum pipes that are placed in streams and surrounded by mounded earth), which are prone to erosion.

• Cross the Black River at just one spot.

• Use electric motors, which produce less noise and no on-site emissions, to power pumpjacks and engines.

• Employ the best available technology to contain and treat poisonous hydrogen sulfide gas.

• Cease all exploration and construction activity from April 15 to June 30, the critical period for wildlife nesting and young-bearing.

• Pay for studies of wildlife, which were used by the DNR to provide summary reports to the Legislature and the public.

• Paint all equipment in colors that harmonize with the natural surroundings.

• Post a performance bond of $10,000 for each well.

• Remove equipment and restore the surrounding land when production ends.

The Pigeon River Hydrocarbon Development Plan also required the DNR to assign an enforcement officer to closely monitor the industry's compliance with the agreement, and to shut down operations in the event of a violation.

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