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Published: Monday, 2/11/2013

Forum to focus on oil in Adrian

Dominican sisters to host talks about boom’s effect on area

BY DAVID PATCH
BLADE STAFF WRITER
An oil rig is partially collapsed in half at Heritage Park in Adrian, Mich. Lenawee County’s developing oil boom and particularly its potential impact on the Irish Hills and the area inside Adrian’s city limits, will be the subject of a public forum today hosted by the Adrian Dominican Sisters. An oil rig is partially collapsed in half at Heritage Park in Adrian, Mich. Lenawee County’s developing oil boom and particularly its potential impact on the Irish Hills and the area inside Adrian’s city limits, will be the subject of a public forum today hosted by the Adrian Dominican Sisters.
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ADRIAN — Lenawee County’s developing oil boom and particularly its potential impact on the Irish Hills and the area inside Adrian’s city limits, will be the subject of a public forum today hosted by the Adrian Dominican Sisters.

Initially inspired by a Savoy Energy proposal to build an oil-processing facility in the city’s Heritage Park, the forum will go on as scheduled even though that plan has been changed to build the plant on other city-owned property, said Sister Barbara Kelley, a spokesman for the Adrian Dominicans.

“We’re holding the public forum to educate ourselves and the public about the impact the oil-processing plant will have on Adrian and our community,” Sister Barbara said. “We’re not taking a stand right now.”

The forum is set to start at 7 p.m. in the Weber Center, 1257 E. Siena Heights Dr. on the congregation’s Motherhouse campus. The Adrian Dominicans, a Roman Catholic order whose international headquarters are in Adrian, have set up a panel of speakers who are experts in biology, health care, geology, volatile gases, and the impact of drilling in the Irish Hills region northwest of Adrian, a statement said

Among those planning to attend is Victoria Powell of Adrian, who said she is particularly concerned about truck traffic, natural-gas flares, and the risk of leaks from oil drilling near ecologically sensitive areas and potential exploration in public parks.

“Even though they’ve moved it out of our park, we want people to know” what’s happening, Ms. Powell said last week. “We are not interested in shutting down industry, but it should be able to be set up with parameters that are safe for people and the environment.”

Savoy Energy, based in Traverse City, Mich., holds oil-exploration leases on 1,184 acres of city property, including Heritage Park, which is in neighboring Adrian Township.

Savoy drilled an exploratory well in the park in November that city officials say yielded only water, but Adrian Mayor Greg DuMars said the company is setting up to try again in the park after drilling a successful well at the nearby city-owned Witt Farm site along M-52 just inside the city limits.

Adrian is astride a developing oil field in central Lenawee County, stretching from northwest to southeast, into which Savoy, after acquiring leases from private-property owners, has sunk several dozen wells.

A Savoy receptionist told The Blade on Friday that Savoy officials were “not interested in commenting at this time.”

Another Traverse City-based company, West Bay Exploration, has been oil prospecting in the Irish Hills region that runs from northwest Lenawee County into Jackson County.

Mayor DuMars said Savoy proposed the Heritage Park processing facility to receive oil from the Witt Farm site and any other nearby wells it drills nearby that produce oil. During an Adrian City Commission meeting last Monday, he said, it changed the proposed site to the 118-acre Witt Farm location.

The processing separates the oil from water and natural gas the wells also yield, the mayor said. Without a processing plant nearby, he said, Savoy has yet to pump any oil from the successful Witt Farm well.

Mayor DuMars said he does not believe the Adrian City Commission must act to permit Savoy to build a processing plant at Witt Farm. Ms. Powell agreed, but she said she believes the location change was prompted by public opposition to the Heritage Park site.

Savoy has built similar facilities near its working wells elsewhere in the area, typically building one processing plant to handle production from groups of three to six wells, the mayor said. For now, he said, the natural gas is burned off through on-site flares, although buyers are being sought to eliminate that waste.

Last week, the city commission voted to rezone about 120 city-owned acres on West Beecher Street for industrial use, which Ms. Powell said contradicted a 2008 city plan which found the site ill-suited for development because of low water pressure. She questioned whether the rezoning was really intended to support oil drilling in that part of town too.

Mayor DuMars responded that Adrian’s leaders consider the Beecher property suitable for development and rezoned it so it would be marketable to several business prospects.

“So far, Savoy hasn’t shown any interest in drilling out there,” he said.

The city does not plan to send any representatives to the Adrian Dominicans’ forum, the mayor said.

Contact David Patch at: dpatch@theblade.com or 419-724-6094.



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