Protest over Southfield oil drilling continues as state seeks public input


With an overwhelming response to this week’s public meeting at the Southfield library to discuss the proposed oil drilling in the city, officials and activists are continuing their protest.

Organizers said about 200 people attended the meeting and another 200 could not get into the crowded auditorium, eventually forcing another town hall meeting over the issue at 6 p.m. on Feb. 1 at the City Hall.

The Wednesday meeting was organized by State Representative Jeremy Moss with Oakland County Water Resources Commissioner Jim Nash to provide residents information on oil and gas exploration and drilling, including fracking.

All of this is in light of Traverse City-based Jordan Development seeking a permit with the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality to dig an oil well at the Word of Faith International Christian Center on Evergreen Road and Nine Mile.

A local anti-drilling group, Stop The Drilling In Southfield, has been demonstrating in front of the church every Sunday since Jan. 17.

One of the demonstrators, Sheila Gaddie, said about 50 people have showed up on each occasion.

And they are not the only ones. The city of Southfield also opposes the proposed drilling.

“Drilling for oil and gas, no matter how safe Jordan Development claims – is totally incompatible with a residential area,” said Mayor Kenson Siver. “The city’s utmost concern is the public’s health, safety and welfare and we remain committed to act in the best interest of our residents.”

On its part, Word of Faith said in a statement on its website that the drilling would be “very beneficial to the church and surrounding community.”

“The well, if oil is discovered, will have a positive impact on the Church and community at large due to the royalty income it will provide and the jobs that will be created,” the statement said.

The MDEQ said it has not made a decision yet on Jordan Development’s application to drill in the city and wants more public input.

The department will be holding a public meeting on Feb. 17 between 6 and 9 p.m. at the Southfield High School Auditorium, located at 24675 Lahser Road in Southfield, to discuss the issue with the residents.

On the other hand, Representative Moss, a former Southfield councilman, introduced House Bill 5258 this week to restrict oil and gas drilling in residential areas.

“Oil and gas companies are ramping up their efforts in our community, and residents are rightly concerned about risks to public health, the environment and our water resources,” Moss said.