Cass Lake Resident Works to Fight Oil and Gas Drilling in West Bloomfield
Kathy Chiaravalli, a 23-year West Bloomfield resident, worked with township government officials to inform them of the possibility of drilling in her back yard.
Kathy Chiaravalli has owned her home on Cass Lake in West Bloomfield Township for 23 years, but it wasn't until recently that she found out she doesn't own the rights to the minerals that can be found near her property.
Neighbors of Chiaravalli's lakefront property, along with many others in West Bloomfield and across Michigan, were up for auction in Lansing earlier this month and purchased for lease by private developers in pursuit of oil and natural gas deposits.
Now, thanks to Chiaravalli and her work to shed light on the issue, township officials are working to get better-acquainted with state law in the interest of keeping the minerals in town.
"(Kathy) pushed this and she brought it to our attention and she made me read all this information about it," Township Clerk Cathy Shaughnessy said at the May 14 board meeting. "That’s what happens when residents get involved in issues, we get things done."
The board unanimously passed a resolution against drilling for oil and natural gas (PDF), including those slant operations which begin outside of town and terminate under West Bloomfield.
Further, the township is expected to ask the state for information on public hearings which are required to take place in a situation where a resident, even just one resident, opposes drilling on their land.
"I don’t think we should rely on the state to regulate these permits. I think they’re going to need our help," Shaughnessy said.
It's an effort which Chiaravalli appreciates, and vice versa.
"It seems to be a rare issue in which the entire township board can agree," she joked.
Ben Brower, who represents Jordan Development of Traverse City, purchased many of the parcels in Michigan. He said that the company, which operates about 450 wells in Michigan, has no immediate plans to drill in the area (a full map of mineral lease nominations in Oakland County is available on a state website).
In sum, the auction encompassed 108,000 acres of land in 23 counties, most in pursuit of oil and gas deposits.
Brower added that many of those parcels purchased for lease are classified as non-development, meaning that state laws will prevent the lessee from developing well heads or roads on the land.
However, Hal Fitch of the state Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) said that slant drilling technology has made the development unnecessary to tap into possible lodes up to a mile and a half away.
The potential of a leak was too close for comfort to Elizabeth Chiaravalli, 23, a 2006 West Bloomfield Hight School graduate, and Kathy Chiaravalli's daughter.
"I immediately started looking at all the maps and I realized how close it was to where I grew up," she said.
"Sailing, ice skating, all of the most important events of my childhood happened on Cass Lake. If one well leaks, the water is contaminated."
Kathy Chiaravalli added that every home on her street uses a well for water from Cass Lake.