White Lake underground injection permit suspended following resident disapproval
An application for a saltwater disposal (SWD) permit in White Lake Township to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has been suspended as of late last week.
Jordan Development, a privately owned oil and gas exploration and development company based in Traverse City, submitted an application to the EPA for a Class II injection well permit sometime last month.
But according to a correspondence from Benjamin Brower, VP of Jordan Development, the permit was cancelled at his request as a result of no significant oil discoveries in the area to justify the permit.
“At this point, Jordan has not had significant oil discoveries in this area to justify this SWD well therefore, as of November 12, Jordan has requested the EPA suspend our SWD permit application,” Brower said in a statement. “In the event we ever wish to move forward with this permit, we will be required to start the public comment period from the beginning.”
As required by law, the public comment period must include 30 days for comments, plus an additional three days for any delay caused by mailing.
White Lake residents raised eyebrows after a notice was posted on the White Lake Township website earlier last week alerting residents of the proposed permit. According to documents from the EPA, the group was accepting comments from the public on this proposed permit approval with the public comment period ending Tuesday, November 25.
“If the comment period is 30 days and it ends November 25 the Township would have known about this since October 24 and likely sooner. Why did they not take some type of action immediately?” one resident says. “It got pretty close to it being done without anybody knowing.”
According to a statement by White Lake Township Supervisor Greg Baroni, the Township offices, which has no jurisdiction over the request, were “inundated” with phone calls regarding the permit.
If approved, Jordan Development would inject produced brine into a rock formation 4,472 feet below the surface into a class II well site just northeast of White Lake and Teggerdine roads in White Lake Township. The expected maximum daily volume of fluid to be injected was 20,000 barrels.
Although a common address was never released, many residents speculated that the injection well was proposed within the Indian Springs Metropark. In addition to concerns of a spill or leak traveling south through the entire watershed, according to Mark Brahm-Henkel, manager of assets and development for Huron-Clinton Metroparks, fracking and injection wells are not permitted within the park.
The Huron-Clinton Metropolitan Authority’s Board of Commissioners entered into an oil and gas lease with Jordan Development to explore the potential for oil and gas development within the 2,510-acre Indian Springs Metropark. Part 1 of the lease (375 acres) was approved on September 8, 2011 and part two of the lease (2,135 acres) was approved October 11, 2012. The Seismic Contract stipulated that the key terms of the lease include no hydraulic fracturing techniques, in addition to other stipulations.
According to documents obtained through the EPA, disposal wells inject brines and other fluids associated with the production of oil and natural gas or natural gas storage operations.
When oil and gas are extracted, large amounts of brine are typically brought to the surface. Often saltier than seawater, this brine can also contain toxic metal and radioactive substances and can be very damaging to the environment and public health if discharged to surface water or the land surface.
According to the drafted permit released by the EPA, “Review of the permit application indicates that no significant environmental impact should result from the proposed injection.”
In drafted letters sent to Anna Miller of the US EPA Water Division, residents raise questions such as, “What chemicals are in this fluid?” and “How much radiation is included in this waste?”
“Although ‘no significant environmental impact should result from the proposed injection’, accidents do happen, well-castings leak and guaranteeing containment is impossible,” one letter reads. “This volume of activity inherently imposes a tremendous amount of road wear and tear, plus noise and air pollution from equipment and diesel truck convoys – none of which our area is prepared to deal with – not to mention ‘disturbing the peace.’”
Oil, gas exploration on the rise
Permit request to drill new wells over the past two years have been moving been moving toward Southeast Michigan. Exploration companies have obtained 20 permits, out of 86 drilling permits statewide, for wells in the five-county region of Wayne, Oakland, Macomb, Washtenaw and Livingston so far 2014.