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Residents air concerns over oil drilling on Adrian land

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Some residents were unhappy about the 1.6 million barrels that were drawn last year from the Adrian fields like this one as well as the Napoleon Township oil field near the Irish Hills area.

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ADRIAN — Almost three dozen Adrian residents who attended a workshop about oil drilling in the city on the Adrian Dominican Sisters campus on Tuesday night expressed concerns about health and environmental hazards and questioned why they didn’t know more about the project.

The workshop was a follow-up to an open forum in mid-February regarding the effect of oil drilling on public health. The event was designed to explore responses to oil drilling in the Adrian area by using a collaborative model called a “future workshop.”

The purpose of holding a future workshop, a concept which originated in Germany, “is to provide a voice to ‘excluded’ groups by enabling them to articulate their problems, needs, and wishes, and to develop creative ideas and a vision of possible solutions and ways forward for a better society,” according to materials at the event.

Tom Wassmer, Siena Heights University assistant professor of biology, said the event was designed to bring a diverse set of people together to make a list of ideas.

“It’s actually us all coming together with our wisdom. Not a single person has really an exhausting answer to that question,” he said, about the problems residents believe to be facing. “It should be fun to dream about a better future.”

But residents were unhappy about the 1.6 million barrels that were drawn last year from the Adrian fields as well as the Napoleon Township oil field near the Irish Hills area. While some landowners have profited from the drilling, others say they have had no say in the process that hasn’t been clearly explained by officials.

“I’m concerned a lot. It’s just not a good idea,” Ann Emerson of Adrian said.

Ms. Emerson and about 35 others attended the workshop.

In 2010 and 2011, Adrian commissioners signed two, three-year contracts with Traverse City-based Savoy Energy LLP, for oil leases that involved the following properties: Heritage Park, Witt Farm, and Marvin Farm. As of December, the land leases had fetched about $500,000 for the city.

But problems arose, including a blown oil plug in 2011 and an illegal oil dump that same year that cost $43,000 in clean-up costs.

"I’m mainly concerned about the water and the air,” Adrian resident Mike Smith said. “I want to see efforts put towards getting off oil.”

Another issue that surfaced was the use of publicly owned land for drilling. An oil processing plant is at Witt Farm on land owned by the city.

The Adrian Dominican Sisters said they sent a letter to city officials expressing concerns and they had invited Adrian officials to attend Tuesday night’s event.

No one from the city attended the workshop.

Adrian Administrator Dane Nelson maintains a blog post about the issue on the city’s Web site.

Regarding Witt Farm, Mr. Nelson posted that “initially, Savoy had desired to locate an oil processing facility [designed to separate oil, gas, and brine water] at a location in Heritage Park. The goal was to have a centralized facility for other nearby wells … the leases with Savoy allow the company to locate such a facility on any parcel where oil is produced.”

Adrian Township resident Bob Xeras said he attended the workshop because he wanted to learn more about it.

Others stood firm in their opposition.

“I can’t see anything positive,” Ms. Kelly said.

Contact Kelly McLendon at: kmclendon@theblade.com or at 419-724-6522.

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