Frackers in the Watershed?

What do you do if someone wants to lease your oil/gas development rights?

Natural gas fracking drill

Do you really want this to be part of your view? Credit: Daniel Foster

That is a question we have been hearing recently. There may be new interest in potential natural gas reserves beneath the watershed that could be accessed via traditional drilling, directional drilling or hydraulic fracturing (a.k.a. “fracking”), which we have been hearing so much about nationally. The companies interested in leasing drilling rights and their representatives (colloquially referred to as “landmen”) often are quite aggressive in their pursuit of lease signatures. Oil or gas exploration and extraction can have a significant impact on the land and our water resources, so careful consideration should be given before signing away your rights.


Folks in the northern half of the lower peninsula have been dealing with this issue for a number of years now, so I called one of our sister organizations, the Tip of the Mitt Watershed Council, for some advice. Here is what they recommend if the landmen come knocking on your door with promises of riches:

1. Get a lawyer experienced in oil and gas leases to review any contract prior to signing. It’s just too easy to sign away your rights and once you do, it is hard to stop the drillers if they start mucking things up. Your county bar association can refer you to qualified attorneys or HRWC can suggest one (call or e-mail Ric).

2. Check out Michigan State University’s information for land owners. Consider going to a landowner meeting.

3. If your neighbors do start signing leases and drillers start planning for exploration, get your surface and groundwater tested. You want this done professionally in case you need to prove damage later down the road. The Michigan DEQ maintains a list of certified labs at,4561,7-135-3307_4131_4156-36940–,00.html. Tip of the Mitt has some great advice on deciding what to test and when at


Thanks to the staff at Tip of the Mitt for the helpful advice.


If you have been contacted about selling your oil/gas rights, let us know in the comments. We are interested in tracking this issue and it’s spread across the watershed.

[starbox id=”RicLawson”]

4 Responses to “Frackers in the Watershed?”

  • Evan Pratt:

    oops, the text and background colors for the fracking article make it impossible to read. can’t see the fields needed to fill in the comment

  • Paul Steen:

    hopefully it works for you now Evan. I think it might be your own computer settings or your browser failed to load the page properly.

  • nick:

    I am not sure if you are aware but an oil company is planning to install oil rigs at a close proximity to the Huron River near Zeeb road in Scio Township.

    This seems like a major liability to the Huron River fishing as well as the planned Border to Border trail.

    What can you do to get involved and help stop this?

    Are you planning to attend the public meeting this Thurs?

    What can you do to get the word out?

    This area of Huron River Drive is enjoyed by 1000’s of canoeists, fishermen, Bicyclists etc.

    It is also directly next to the planned Border to Border Trail.

    Can you imagine natural gas flares being emitted directly next to the Huron River?

    Please try to get involved to stop this.

  • Ric Lawson:


    We are indeed aware of the activity of West Bay. I attended the township meeting last night and thought the issues were well covered. I share your frustration over the state laws exempting local zoning control over oil/gas activities, as these activities can have numerous impacts on a community.

    The good news was that the company was willing to confirm in leasing contracts that there will not be high-volume fracking wells drilled. The type proposed will not likely impact Huron surface waters nor ground water supplies, given the track record of DEQ regulations. It was also good to hear that they would commit to include pre and post ground water monitoring by a third party to confirm a lack of impact. We can work with neighbors to hold them to that.

    That still leaves the air quality, noise, road and aesthetic impacts on surrounding neighbors. I am hopeful that you and other neighbors will be able to minimize these impacts through lease agreements, but it would be better if Scio Township had the ability to regulate these issues directly.

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