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House Proposal Strengthens Planning, Public Oversight of Oil and Gas Development

First hearing on hydrocarbon development planning to protect communities, environment

March 11, 1998 | By Hans Voss
and Keith Schneider
Great Lakes Bulletin News Service

On Tuesday, March 17, the House Forestry and Mineral Rights Committee will hold the first public hearing on proposed legislation to strengthen citizen oversight and planning for oil and gas development in Michigan. The proposal calls for the oil and gas industry to work with state regulators, local government officials, and citizens to prepare formal plans that guide the installation of wells, pipelines, processing stations, and other facilities along the Great Lakes coast, in the sensitive watersheds of northern Michigan, and in the communities of Southeast Michigan. The hearing is scheduled for 10:30 a.m., Tuesday, March 17, 1998 in the State Capitol, Room 425.

The proposal, sponsored by the committee’s chairman, Rep. David Anthony (D-Escanaba), is based on the successful hydrocarbon development plan that has been in effect since 1980 in the Pigeon River Country State Forest, northeast of Gaylord. That plan, reached after ten years of negotiation, protected the forest’s natural resources while also enabling the industry to recover more than $400 million in oil and gas.

The intent of Rep. Anthony’s proposal is to modernize and apply the Pigeon River approach to other regions of the state. The proposal promotes the orderly development of Michigan’s valuable oil and gas reserves, protects the environment, safeguards communities, and ensure the maximum economic returns to taxpayers. Such goals would be realized by requiring the industry and the state to prepare hydrocarbon development plans for a watershed before exploration and development occurs. The plans would require the industry to coordinate their drilling activities with the existing land use plans of Michigan’s communities. Under the proposal, hydrocarbon development plans would be drawn up and overseen with the assistance of a 12-member Citizens Advisory Council, made up of industry executives, state officials, local government leaders, and residents.

If approved, Rep. Anthony’s proposal for improving the management of industrial development within a watershed would return Michigan to its traditional position at the forefront of policy making that achieves economic and environmental goals.

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