Policy: Environment & Energy

Suit against drilling under Rochester Hills parks

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News,Business,Energy and Environment,Civil Suits

ROCHESTER HILLS, Mich. (AP) — Residents of Rochester Hills have sued the Detroit suburb and a drilling company to block plans for oil and gas exploration beneath municipal parks and a cemetery.

The group Don't Drill the Hills filed suit Thursday in Oakland County Circuit Court, according to The Oakland Press of Pontiac and the Detroit Free Press.

The group said that drilling would violate a 2011 voter-approved City Charter amendment that forbids leasing or converting of city-owned open spaces without voter approval.

"We're saying, just let us vote on leasing our parklands for this purpose," said Kristen Kennedy, who lives across the street from the city-owned Stoney Creek Cemetery.

City officials said the drilling would be horizontal from industrial sites that likely would be outside the city. The charter amendment doesn't ban leasing of mineral rights, said City Attorney John Staran. He said Rochester Hills followed state law and the city's charter in approving the lease.

"The city approached it very carefully and thoughtfully and was fully advised and had requested and received a legal opinion concerning the legality," he said.

The city approved a drilling lease with Traverse City-based Jordan Development Co. in January 2013. Such deals are important sources of government revenue, Staran said.

"Our state makes millions of dollars a year by leasing state lands including parklands" for mineral rights, he said.

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