From: John Flesher, Associated Press
Published December 8, 2005 12:00 AM

Judge Blocks Land Clearing for Oil, Gas Drilling in Michigan Forest

TRAVERSE CITY, Mich. — A federal judge on Wednesday temporarily blocked an energy company from clearing land in preparation for oil and natural gas drilling near a forest and a river.


Judge David M. Lawson issued a preliminary order halting Savoy Energy from cutting timber, building a road and taking other steps toĆ’ get the project under way in northern Michigan.


Lawson said the order was necessary "to prevent irreparable harm" and give the court time to review decisions by the U.S. Forest Service and the U.S. Bureau of Land Management to permit the exploratory drilling.


The Sierra Club and Anglers of the Au Sable, a fishing group, filed suit last June to stop the project.


"The courts are showing what Michigan anglers have known all along: that the Au Sable River is one of the most special places in our state and shouldn't be hastily destroyed," said Rusty Gates, president of the fishing group.


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The Forest Service permit would let Savoy install a well about three-tenths of a mile from the Mason Tract, a 5,300-acre section of undeveloped woodland. The south branch of the Au Sable River is less than a mile from the proposed drilling site.


Although the tract is state property, the federal government owns rights to minerals beneath it and has leased production rights to Savoy. The company plans to locate its wellhead on adjacent federal land and drill underneath the tract at an angle.


If the well is productive, the company plans to install a pipeline and production facility.


Leanne Marten, supervisor of the Huron-Manistee National Forests, approved the permit application last February, saying the project wouldn't significantly harm the environment and the company would have to keep noise to a minimum.


Source: Associated Press


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