Plan to drill for oil in Southfield fuels anger


A packed town hall meeting in Southfield Wednesday as emotions run high over a plan to drill for oil in the middle of the city.

The big debate pits homeowners opposed to the plan against the members of a mega-church who say they want to use the oil money for charity.

The Michigan Department of Environmental Quality will make the final decision.

"By allowing them to stand on the neck impeding the progress of  the Word of Faith Church who have helped millions and millions of people," said Stephanie Jones at the town hall.

Not everyone inside a packed Southfield High School auditorium agrees with Jones -  a member of the Word of Faith Church - who is in favor of oil drilling on the 110 acres of land that surrounds the Christian center at Nine Mile and Evergreen.

From residents who live near the church and are worried about their property values and water quality.

"We don't want our wetlands damaged, we don't want our water damaged," said resident Jacquetta Miah.  "We don't want a situation like they have in Flint."

To the mayor, who is doing everything in his power to stop the drilling in the middle of a neighborhood near a nature preserve.

"I have been bombarded for over two months, 'Ken you have to do something about this,'" said Southfield Mayor Ken Siver. "And we have."

Congresswoman Brenda Lawrence and State Rep Jeremy Moss took the stage to share their concerns about the possible impact.

But all eyes seem to be on the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality, which has been under fire for how officials handled Flint's water.

The DEQ was there Wednesday night to consider public comment before deciding whether to grant a drilling permit.

FOX2: A lot of people are concerned about the drinking water after what happened in Flint. Could this drilling effect the drinking water?"

"We have a very safe history as far as protecting drinking water from oil and gas operations," said Hal Fitch from the DEQ. "Just like anything we do out there, it is not risk free. We can't guarantee there couldn't be an accident or something."

FOX 2: "The DEQ says there are always risks for drilling, how can you guarantee that to the people?"

"You can't guarantee," said Andrea Simpson from Word of Faith Church. "Who can make that guarantee. You can't.  We need to be as stringent and strict as possible to make sure these things don't happen."

Simpson, was there representing the Word of Faith Church, which claims to use any profits for good works, says if given the green light, they plan to monitor all of Jordan Development's drilling.

But that still isn't enough assurance for the citizens group Stop the Drilling in Southfield, hundreds of people who plan to fight the efforts every step of the way.

"We are not going away even if a permit is granted," said member Skip Davis.

The biggest issue among the more than a thousand people who showed up is that there are no guarantees.

Fitch from the DEQ, says the department has drilled 14,000 wells since the 1980s and have had no issue with well or surface water contamination, but there is always a risk.

Fitch says the church and Jordan Development have a one out of three chance of finding oil.
 


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