Lawmakers Pass Five Reform Bills, But Let Too Many Good Ones Go
A smashing breakthrough for citizen advocacy
December 1, 1999 | By Hans Voss
Great Lakes Bulletin News Service
The Michigan Legislature spent more time in 1998 debating oil and gas policy than it has in decades. There were more than one dozen reform proposals, and five bills became law.
The new laws will have a profound effect on state oil and gas policy. In addition to added protections for state-owned lands (see the articles on pages 43-44), the laws will increase funding for state oil and gas oversight, allow some private landowners to buy mineral rights from the state, and make health and safety a state priority when considering new well permits.
But many other reasonable proposals fell victim to ugly partisan politics and influential industry lobbyists. For example:
• Despite widespread support from citizens, local officials, and expert scientists, a proposal to protect communities and the environment was defeated because state regulators and industry representatives were unwilling to consider working with local governments.
• A simple, common sense measure to require the disclosure of mineral rights before land is bought and sold never made it out of a Senate committee.
• Even though one of three bills designed to protect mineral owners from excessive post-production cost deductions was signed by the Governor, two of them never made it. Because the three were linked together, all were left in the hopper of failed legislation.
The reform bills need to be reintroduced this year.
Oil and gas reforms that made it ...
• Protections for sensitive state-owned lands
• Partial relief for citizens in forced pooling hearings
• Regulators must consider health and safety when permitting
• Increased funding for state oversight
• State must sell severed minerals to private surface owners ...
and those that didn't
• Involving local communities in planning for development
• Consumer protections for leasing agreements
• Prohibition of drilling beneath the Great Lakes
• Directing part of state oil and gas taxes to communities
• Disclosure of mineral rights during real estate sales
• Arbitration for severed rights disputes
• Limiting the amount of land that can be "forced pooled" into drilling units against the owner's will
• Expanding township regulatory authority
• Reducing property taxes for landowners who don't own their mineral rights
Michigan's term limit law restricted 64 members from returning to office in the last election -- some of them were the sponsors and key backers of the oil and gas reform initiatives. Lawmakers, especially the new ones, need to hear from you. For more information about these bills call Hans Voss at the Institute, 616-882-4723. To find out who your current state representative and senator are call your local clerk's office, or the State Bureau of Elections at 517-373-2540.