Michigan Land Use Institute

MLUI / Articles from 1995 to 2012 / Sweeping Watershed Protection Bill Pending in State House

Sweeping Watershed Protection Bill Pending in State House

Pigeion River model suggested

August 1, 1998 | By Hans Voss
Great Lakes Bulletin News Service

More than 6,000 Antrim Shale gas
wells, with their accompanying roads,
pipelines, and processing stations,
have been installed in the northern
Lower Peninsula. The Legislature is
expected to hold hearings this fall on
a bill to require careful planning for
future oil and gas development.

Of all the bills still pending in the Legislature, there is one that would fundamentally change the way the
state oversees oil and gas development.

House Bill 5939, sponsored by Rep. David Anthony (D-Escanaba), establishes a "watershed protection"
planning process designed to encourage public oversight of the oil and gas industry. The proposal requires
state regulators and the industry to work cooperatively with citizens and local governments to identify the best
possible locations for wells, processing stations, and pipelines.

HB 5939 is under review by the House Conservation, Environment, and Recreation Committee chaired by
Rep. Tom Alley (D-West Branch). The bill has drawn broad support from local governments and citizens, and
opposition from the oil and gas industry and state regulators. Legislative hearings are expected this fall.

What the Law Would Do
HB 5939 is based on the recommendations in Rivers at Risk, a Michigan Land Use Institute report
published in November 1997. The report documents how a comprehensive planning program for the Pigeon
River Country State Forest allowed for the extraction of oil and gas worth more than $400 million, while
preserving the northern two-thirds of the forest for wildlife and recreation.

HB 5939 would revive the Pigeon River model and apply it to the
Great Lakes coastline and nine sensitive watersheds in the northern
Lower Peninsula. The bill would:

Require a comprehensive review of current oil and gas policies.

Establish tighter restrictions on areas of special environmental value.

Coordinate state oversight with local land use plans to reduce community

Set up citizen advisory councils to ensure the public has access to the
decision making.

Place a moratorium on drilling beneath the Great Lakes until shoreline
protection plans are in place.

Based on Sound Science
The planning principles proposed in HB 5939 recently were endorsed by the Michigan Environmental
Science Board, a group of scientists appointed by Gov. John Engler to evaluate the risks of drilling under the
Great Lakes.

In October 1997 the Science Board issued a report calling on the state to refrain from leasing oil and gas
rights beneath the Great Lakes until a planning process is established that allows substantive public involvement.
Despite publicly praising the Science Board's report, the Engler Administration has ignored its central findings.

To comment on the legislation, contact Rep. Tom Alley, State Capitol, P.O. Box 30014, Lansing, MI 48909-
7536. Tel. 517-373-3817, email <talley@house.state.mi.us>. To obtain a copy of Rivers at Risk, contact
Alicia Harrison at the Institute, 616-882-4723.

Michigan Land Use Institute

148 E. Front Street, Suite 301
Traverse City, MI 49684-5725
p (231) 941-6584 
e comments@mlui.org