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Two Metro Detroit communities have turned to enacting moratoriums in an attempt to thwart oil drilling projects.

Scio Township’s Board of Trustees passed a six-month moratorium on mining and drilling projects Wednesday night. Twenty-four hours earlier and 60 miles to the east, Shelby Township officials approved a moratorium of their own on oil drilling.

Both communities are facing the prospect of oil wells operating full-time in areas not far from residents’ homes. Shelby passed its six-month moratorium after a test well was constructed less than 500 feet from a residence near the 25 Mile-Dequindre intersection.

In Scio Township, members of the non-profit Citizens for Oil Free Backyards have been battling the drilling project for months. They welcomed the township’s action, calling it “a tremendous statement.”

“The oil and gas industry has been breaking the wrong kind of new ground itself over the last few years as it has begun encroaching on residential areas, and it’s becoming clear with the decisions in Scio and Shelby that citizens and townships have had enough,” said Laura Robinson, president of the Citizens group, in a statement.

“In Scio, a township known for its land preservation, conservation and outdoor recreation ... the potential consequences of oil and gas development need to be understood and examined before development continues. The board’s moratorium gives time for the township to do just that, and we’re looking forward to our involvement in that process.”

Oil and natural gas exploration has expanded in Michigan to nontraditional drilling areas. Seismic surveying technologies have allowed companies to locate oil and natural gas deposits in new areas.

Traverse City-based West Bay Exploration has been the driving force behind many such projects that have run up against local opposition. Company officials, however, say they have been operating wells in southeast Michigan for many years without any major problems.

West Bay Vice President Pat Gibson said this week he did not think the moratoriums had authority over the company’s projects under state law, which says communities can’t ban drilling “unless very serious consequences would result from the extraction of those natural resources.”

In addressing Shelby Township’s moratorium Wednesday, he said: “I’m not sure their moratorium is anything more than symbolic.”

jlynch@detroitnews.com

(313) 222-2034

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