Barry Wege grant pass avoids opportunity to protect our land

To the editor:

I am disappointed, but not surprised that Letter to editor_8Barry County commissioners voted to turn down a $5,000 grant from the Wege Foundation to explore ordinances to control oil and gas development in the county.

At a January public information session on environmental issues in Barry County, Matthew Zimmerman of Varnum Law referenced the Michigan Zoning Enabling Act (125.3205), which states that “a county or township shall not regulate or control the drilling, completion, or operation of oil or gas wells…” I believe that the outcome of last week’s board meeting was set at that point.

Though the statute only applies to well pads and Mr. Zimmerman went on to explain the wide latitude local municipalities have to regulate other impacts associated with drilling, it seemed at that moment county officials took a free pass to fold back into a “Business as Usual” policy.

The purpose of the presentation brought to last week’s county commission meeting by the Barry County Community Rights Team, given by Brian Keeley of Kent County Water Conservation, was to preview what the county can do in terms of enacting protective ordinances regarding oil and gas development activities. Whether or not the process results in ‘new information,’ it would be worth it to send a message to the Michigan legislature, DEQ, and DNR that Barry County is interested in protecting its natural resources from unsustainable and unsafe commercial practices.

“They” (whatever that means to each of us when we think of who is going to protect our land, air, water, health and ecosystems) are not going to change until “we” change and demand protection of the natural resources we have left. If the local people in a region don’t protect their own neighborhood, who will? Not the State, corporations, or federal regulators.

When we demand that our neighborhood be protected, an opportunity like the one proposed in Barry County will be something that the board will be happy to undertake.

Cindy Vigneron,

Delton, MI

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