The Rochester Hills citizens group “Don’t Drill the Hills” has filed a lawsuit against the city alleging officials have violated the community charter by signing a lease permitting oil and gas exploration of a city-owned park and cemetery.
The suit is an expensive ploy to stop the drilling. State law permits private citizens and municipalities to allow companies to drill for oil and gas through lease arrangements that can be lucrative. In Shelby Township, families have received $200 to $300 a month. Last year in Jackson County’s Irish Hills area, a landowner was paid $22 million in royalties.
A section of the law permits the Department of Environmental Quality to halt or prevent the drilling if it can be proven that it’s dangerous to the area.
Generally, such exploration not only has been proven safe but a boon to state and local economies.
Fighting the lawsuit will only take away funds are that badly needed in the city’s coffers.
Full steam ahead on rail tunnel
The Legislature has approved in its $37.4 billion budget a $10 million appropriation toward the Continental Rail Gateway, a new rail tunnel between Detroit and Windsor.
The funds will be seen as a commitment from Michigan toward the project. Construction ultimately depends upon the U.S. and Canadian governments sharing the $400 million cost.
Michigan is losing freight traffic, including vehicle shipments, to other states. The new tunnel would be tall enough to handle double-stacked freight containers and train cars carrying large trucks and sport utility vehicles from American and Canadian automotive plants. The existing, smaller tunnels force some manufacturers to reroute train shipments through Ohio, Pennsylvania and New York.
Statistics support construction. The two existing tunnels handle up to 25 freight trains each day and 400,000 train cars annually.
Canadian Pacific Railway jointly owns them with Borealis Infrastructure, an investment arm of the Ontario Municipal Employees Retirement System.
This public-private project deserves the state’s continued involvement, if not aggressive support.
To haul or not to haul
Should a municipality allow its residents to decide who picks up their garbage or should the community leaders pick one hauler?
The question, facing communities around Metro Detroit, seems to be one that places individual choice and free enterprise at odds with a municipal monopoly.
As more communities opt to grant contracts to a single hauler, the decision usually comes down to weighing the benefits of these two choices.
Orion Township is one of the most recent communities to take up this discussion. While getting the best rate for residents usually is the top reason, a strong argument these days involves a problem facing the entire state — deteriorating roads.
In Orion, for example, seven licensed haulers means garbage trucks travel the local streets almost daily. Many fear these vehicles are significantly contributing to the crumbling pavement.
A single hauler would reduce this risk. Couple that with the money communities claim to save on lower pickup rates and it’s easy to see why many of them opt for one hauler.