Rep. Peter Lucido (R-Shelby Twp.) is poised to sign his name to a third bill this session on restricting oil drilling, particularly in suburban areas.
Upset about a 110-foot oil derrick that popped up in a residential area in his district two years ago, Lucido has been working with the Snyder administration on giving locals more control over oil drilling projects, particularly in high-density areas.
Lucido said he's written no fewer than 10 letters to Energy Policy Committee Chair Aric Nesbitt (R-Lawton) to discuss his various ideas and has gotten no response to any of them.
That hasn't stopped him from trying again. The new effort, with Rep. Jeremy Moss (D-Southfield), would create a 16-member Oil and Gas Commission that would have the power to supervise the issuance and denial of oil and gas permits by the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ).
As it stands now, Lucido and Moss said they believe citizens feel their concerns are being ignored by the DEQ.
"We don't have any other shots," Lucido said. "By creating this commission, we give the people a place to go to voice their concerns."
Moss faced a similar oil-drilling situation in his district when a Southfield church allowed for exploratory oil drilling on their property despite neighbors' vehement opposition.
"Citizen input to oil development in a neighborhood must happen on the front end of the decision-making process, not largely ignored by the MDEQ once the decision is already made to drill," said Moss.
The legislation comes after Lucido had put in legislation to give counties or townships the power to regulate drilling within their borders. He also authored a bill requiring a state study on the best practices of oil drilling in residential areas.
The Moss/Lucido bill would have the Governor pick 15 people and the DEQ director to sit on a commission to approve drilling operations across the state. Local government officials, medical experts, water resource and geology experts, environmental organizations and members of the general public would sit on it.
The panel would also field companies from local communities and require the DEQ to look into the matter or get the Attorney General involved.
Neither of Lucido's prior bills have moved out of committee and his most recent effort isn't going anywhere either, according to Rep. Aric NESBITT(R-Lawton), chair of the House Energy Policy Committee.
Oil and natural gas companies already are struggling with fuel prices as low as they are and adding additional hurdles to a regulatory scheme deemed among the country's top five isn't needed, he said. He called the Lucido bill an "over-reaction" that would impact personal property right.
"I don't think we need to cut off this industry in Michigan at the knees," Nesbitt said. "The DEQ, by comparing what they do against a national model, has done a good job in protecting the health and safety of people and the environment in the exploration of oil and natural gas."
Erin McDonough, president and CEO of the Michigan Oil and Gas Association (MOGA), said when the Moss/Lucido bill is introduced, she'll be in a better position to speak to it.
However, she recognized the incident that Lucido is drawing attention to and noted that the DEQ stepped in and created a group that set conditions on the operations in Macomb County after neighbors complained.
"Mother Nature determines where oil and gas is located and the people who own those resources have a right to them," said McDonough, adding that the DEQ's existing regulatory process is working and isn't in need of change.