PONTIAC — Three hundred, twenty-two thousand, six hundred and nine.
Activist LuAnne Kozma won't deny that it's a lot of signatures required to get her favored proposal for a statewide ban on hydraulic fracturing, or "fracking," on the Nov. 2014 ballot, but after a special town hall meeting on the subject, she feels optimistic.
"I don't think we can rely on the current state government, or frankly, the future government to do this. It's a power that we, the people, have, and we need to do this for ourselves and future generations," said Kozma, the campaign director of the Committee to Ban Fracking in Michigan.
Approximately 100 turned out to the Oakland County Commissioners Auditorium Wednesday night to learn more on the subject and to network with others in the crowd, the vast majority of whom who seemed to be strongly against the controversial practice of collecting natural gas from underwater sources, currently taking place in several counties in Michigan.
According to organizers and county commissioners Jim Nash (D-Farmington Hills), a candidate for and Craig Covey (D-Ferndale), the process of fracking involves using a high-pressure mixture of water, sand and chemicals to break apart energy-rich rocks.
Erik Bauss, of the Michigan Oil and Gas Association, said that he frequently works with the energy industry and state regulators to safely drill in order to take advantage of home-grown resources. However, in Kozma's view and the view of many in attendance, the industry is in bed with state legislators, blind to local concerns.
"Our state regulators pretty much repeat industry talking points. They say, 'We have no plans for this county,' but they really do. It's actually surprising to me that it's an issue here, because of the high population. I'm hoping county residents will use this to make others in the state aware of what's happening," said Kozma, a Charlevoix resident.
The issue became local in large part after a state mineral rights auction in May during which Jordan Development of Traverse City purchased much of the available 18,347 acres in Oakland County. West Bloomfield resident Kathy Chiaravalli, who attended that auction as well as the meeting in May, pointed out that rights to .
"In Michigan, there’s absolutely no relationship between the starting bid of the land and the potential economic benefit. No relationship between the starting bid of the land and the potential impact. It could be on a lake with many people," Chiaravalli said Wednesday during public comment.
Chiaravalli successfully lobbied officials in her township to pass a resolution banning oil and gas drilling. However, Kozma pointed out, that may not be enough to protect the entirety of Oakland County from potential harm.
"Locally, local community after local community can band together, but at the end of the day it still sets up a situation in which some communities are protected while others are not," she said.