Letters 10-24-2016

It’s Obama’s 1984 Several editions ago I concluded a short letter to the editor with an ominous rhetorical flourish: “Welcome to George Orwell’s 1984 and the grand opening of the Federal Department of Truth!” At the time I am sure most of the readers laughed off my comments as right-wing hyperbole. Shame on you for doubting me...

Gun Bans Don’t Work It is said that mass violence only happens in the USA. A lone gunman in a rubber boat, drifted ashore at a popular resort in Tunisia and randomly shot and killed 38 mostly British and Irish tourists. Tunisian gun laws, which are among the most restrictive in the world, didn’t stop this mass slaughter. And in January 2015, two armed men killed 11 and wounded 11 others in an attack on the French satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo. French gun laws didn’t stop these assassins...

Scripps’ Good Deed No good deed shall go unpunished! When Dan Scripps was the 101st District State Representative, he introduced legislation to prevent corporations from contaminating (e.g. fracking) or depleting (e.g. Nestle) Michigan’s water table for corporate profit. There are no property lines in the water table, and many of us depend on private wells for abundant, safe, clean water. In the subsequent election, Dan’s opponents ran a negative campaign almost solely on the misrepresentation that Dan’s good deed was a government takeover of your private water well...

Political Definitions As the time to vote draws near it’s a good time to check into what you stand for. According to Dictionary.com the meanings for liberal and conservative are as follows:

Liberal: Favorable to progress or reform as in political or religious affairs.

Conservative: Disposed to preserve existing conditions, institutions, etc., or to restore traditions and limit change...

Voting Takes A Month? Hurricane Matthew hit the Florida coast Oct. 6, over three weeks before Election Day. Bob Ross (Oct. 17th issue) posits that perhaps evacuation orders from Governor Scott may have had political motivations to diminish turnout and seems to praise Hillary Clinton’s call for Gov. Scott to extend Florida’s voter registration deadline due to evacuations...

Clinton Foundation Facts Does the Clinton Foundation really spend a mere 10 percent (per Mike Pence) or 20 percent (per Reince Priebus) of its money on charity? Not true. Charity Watch gives it an A rating (the same as it gives the NRA Foundation) and says it spends 88 percent on charitable causes, and 12 percent on overhead. Here is the source of the misunderstanding: The Foundation does give only a small percentage of its money to charitable organizations, but it spends far more money directly running a number of programs...

America Needs Change Trump supports our constitution, will appoint judges that will keep our freedoms safe. He supports the partial-birth ban; Hillary voted against it. Regardless of how you feel about Trump, critical issues are at stake. Trump will increase national security, monitor refugee admissions, endorse our vital military forces while fighting ISIS. Vice-presidential candidate Mike Pence will be an intelligent asset for the country. Hillary wants open borders, increased government regulation, and more demilitarization at a time when we need strong military defenses...

My Process For No I will be voting “no” on Prop 3 because I am supportive of the process that is in place to review and approve developments. I was on the Traverse City Planning Commission in the 1990s and gained an appreciation for all of the work that goes into a review. The staff reviews the project and makes a recommendation. The developer then makes a presentation, and fellow commissioners and the public can ask questions and make comments. By the end of the process, I knew how to vote for a project, up or down. This process then repeats itself at the City Commission...

Regarding Your Postcard If you received a “Vote No” postcard from StandUp TC, don’t believe their lies. Prop 3 is not illegal. It won’t cost city taxpayers thousands of dollars in legal bills or special elections. Prop 3 is about protecting our downtown -- not Munson, NMC or the Commons -- from a future of ugly skyscrapers that will diminish the very character of our downtown...

Vote Yes It has been suggested that a recall or re-election of current city staff and Traverse City Commission would work better than Prop 3. I disagree. A recall campaign is the most divisive, costly type of election possible. Prop 3, when passed, will allow all city residents an opportunity to vote on any proposed development over 60 feet tall at no cost to the taxpayer...

Yes Vote Explained A “yes” vote on Prop 3 will give Traverse City the right to vote on developments over 60 feet high. It doesn’t require votes on every future building, as incorrectly stated by a previous letter writer. If referendums are held during general elections, taxpayers pay nothing...

Beware Trump When the country you love have have served for 33 years is threatened, you have an obligation and a duty to speak out. Now is the time for all Americans to speak out against a possible Donald Trump presidency. During the past year Trump has been exposed as a pathological liar, a demagogue and a person who is totally unfit to assume the presidency of our already great country...

Picture Worth 1,000 Words Nobody disagrees with the need for affordable housing or that a certain level of density is dollar smart for TC. The issue is the proposed solution. If you haven’t already seen the architect’s rendition for the site, please Google “Pine Street Development Traverse City”...

Living Wage, Not Tall Buildings Our community deserves better than the StandUp TC “vote no” arguments. They are not truthful. Their yard signs say: “More Housing. Less Red Tape. Vote like you want your kids to live here.” The truth: More housing, but for whom? At what price..

Home · Articles · News · Features · What's Up with that Fracking...
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What's Up with that Fracking Well Next Door?

Neighbors worry what fracking will do to their property values

Patrick Sullivan - November 12th, 2012  

What used to be quiet, pastoral farmland -- a rural setting nestled on a plateau just up the road from the Rapid River, not far from historic Rugg Pond -- has been invaded by heavy equipment.

In August, bulldozers and graders and dump trucks rumbled along Wood Road to a parcel that used to be part woods and part meadow. To the utter surprise of most neighbors, workers started construction of a deep-shale, horizontal fracturing natural gas well at the site, located in Kalkaska County’s Rapid River Township. As trees were felled and ground was turned over and wildlife was displaced, neighbors worried.

“That area up there was always a really beautiful wildlife area,” said Phyllis Senske, a neighbor whose family has owned land in the area for 100 years.

But the worry was about more than wildlife -- residents also fear what drilling means for property values.

“All of us have lost our peace and our quiet and our rural atmosphere, and we haven’t had anything to say about it,” Senske said.


This isn’t the first time a controversial fracking well has appeared in the region. There are two others on state land on Excelsior and Oliver townships in southern Kalkaska County.

But this is the first time in the area that a well like this has appeared so close to houses.

As companies enter the region looking to tap the Utica-Collingwood shale for natural gas deep below the surface, it’s likely more rural Northern Michigan residents will wake up to the appearance of a horizontal fracking operation near their houses.

Neighbors do not have any recourse when mineral rights are sold and a company comes in to drill for natural gas, as long as the company follows state law and the operation is properly permitted, said Rick Henderson of the Department Of Environmental Quality Oil, Gas and Minerals division.

Henderson said if neighbors are upset over a well, they could try going to court.

Susan Hlywa Topp, a Gaylord attorney who specializes in oil and gas, said neighbors of drilling operations only have a case if operations are excessive.

Henderson said a well head must be 300 feet from the nearest drinking water well. Wells within a quarter mile are monitored with test wells to make sure a drilling operation doesn’t deplete the aquifer and threaten an area’s drinking water supply, though wells are not tested for contamination.

Indeed, the DEQ’s position is that horizontal, deep-shale hydraulic fracturing is safe, and does not pose a threat to human health through drinking water or other pollution if it is carried out within the rules and is properly regulated.

Henderson said that after initial construction activity on a well and after fracturing has taken place, neighbors can expect noise and truck traffic to cut off significantly.

Messages left with Chevron were not returned.


Opponents of horizontal fracking say the practice is dangerous, the chemicals used to break up rock deep underground pose a threat to drinking water and human health, and that the process uses way too much fresh water.

The people closest to the Wood Road well are not anti-fracking activists, however.

Those interviewed by the Express said they are not opposed to fracking in general.

Ruth Crawford, whose property is adjacent to the well, said she supports natural gas drilling.

“I want jobs and I want to be independent of other countries,” Crawford said. “I’m not trying to fight this or anything, I mean, it’s just something we have to live with.”

Yet Crawford fears for the safety of her drinking water. She estimates her drinking water well is less than 1,000 feet from the Chevron well head.

Crawford just had her water tested so she can compare it to what comes out of her well after the operation is up and running.

“There’s not one bad thing in that water, not one ounce of anything that’s bad,” Crawford said. “This is perfect water. This is an important piece of paper.”


Crawford and other neighbors also said they are frustrated that neighbors had no warning this was coming and they had no opportunity to voice opposition or raise questions.

They said they don’t understand how neighbors have no say over something that changes the character of the place they live and could decrease property values.

The Crawfords, the Senskes and others cite anecdotal evidence and common sense as proof their property values will decline as a result of the well.

A Duke University research paper released in September concluded that while shale gas development may have a positive impact on a region as a whole, “negative externalities associated with the process may adversely affect the prices of nearby homes.”

The study, which looked at property values near natural gas drilling operations in Pennsylvania, a state that has experienced widespread hydraulic fracturing for several years, found that natural gas drilling caused most pronounced property value decline when it occurred in areas where homeowners tapped groundwater for drinking water.

Crawford said she raised her concerns about property value to a Chevron executive.

“He said ‘that’s silly,’” she said. “He said: ‘Don’t worry about it, it won’t effect your property value at all.’ I don’t believe it.”


To believe that property values won’t be affected defies what’s obvious, Crawford and Senske say.

Senske was born in the house where she now lives. Her grandparents settled there in 1902 and her family raised Herferd beef cattle and logged throughout the area.

Her family once owned the whole area -- 1,000 acres. It’s been sold off here and there in bits and pieces, including the land where the gas well is being put in now.

“It’s always been pretty peaceful and quiet, the neighbors have always been peaceful and cooperative,” she said.

What the Senskes have left is 40 acres they might want to sell soon because of their age, Senske said, and they don’t believe they could get as much for their farm as they could have gotten before the drilling began.

Last year, the Crawfords completed an addition which cost tens of thousands of dollars. They added a sun room with a large glass wall. That large glass picture window once faced a farm field and woods. Now it faces an industrial natural gas drilling operation.

“That room happened to be all glass and now I have to look at an oil well,” Crawford said.

When someone recently contacted Crawford about some nearby acreage she had listed for sale, Crawford said the potential buyer learned of the drilling operation and quickly lost interest.

“These people turned around immediately,” Crawford said. “They said, ‘We would not by your house on a bet.”

Richard Westerman, a former Kalkaska attorney who owns three quarters of the mineral rights and leased them to an intermediary who leased them to Chevron, said he never envisioned anything happening to the land when he bought 400 acres in the 1970s.

“It stands to be a boon for my family, but it’s nothing you plan,” Westerman said. “It’s unfortunate that people are impacted negatively. I feel bad about it.”


Beyond concern about property values and the quality of drinking water, the fracking project has disrupted life in the neighborhood in other ways.

Crawford is worried the enormous amount of water used in a fracking operation could draw down the aquifer where she gets her drinking water.

“If we turn on the water faucet and no water comes out, we’re going to know our water is gone,” she said.

The operation has also caused disturbances in the past couple of months.

The quiet road has experienced noisy, heavy truck traffic like never before.

There is noise from well pad construction that they never had to endure previously, and the industrial noise has lately begun as early as 7 a.m.

The Senskes watched a farm field across from their home turn into a large-scale sand and gravel pit to service the well construction.

Senske said it was horrible this summer when it was dry and dust would blow across the road.

“When I have sand on the keys of my piano and when I have sand on my books, two things I love very much, then I’m not a happy camper,” she said.

And as the operation ramped up, Crawford and Senske said well construction caused them to feel their homes rumble.

“Our house was shaking last week and they haven’t even started drilling,” Crawford said.

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11.18.2012 at 04:24 Reply

Wow!!!  What a bad deal for these people.

Energy independence and jobs??  All the gas is going to Asia and the jobs are taken by experienced workers from out of state.

People need to educate themselves.