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E-M:/ Jordan Valley Drilling Permit Denied!

Enviro-Mich message from Michigan Land Use Institute <mlui@traverse.com>

For Immediate Release									May 9, 1997
For more information call:
	Hans Voss, Michigan Land Use Institute ó  616-882-0063 
	Keith Schneider, Michigan Land Use Institute ó 616-882-4723
	John Richter, Friends of the Jordan River Watershed ó 616-536-7550


May 21st  Public Hearing Canceled

 The Department of Environmental Quality has denied a developerís bid to
drill the first natural gas well in the Jordan River Valley. Citing
"intense public interest in this issue," the DEQ announced late Friday
afternoon that it had rejected Walter Zarembaís application to install a
well near the center of the revered natural area. The agency said that
Mr.Zarembaís application was denied  because he does not have legal
authority to install a pipeline to move the gas to market. 

"It is a victory for the environment and a victory for the public," said
Hans Voss, Associate Director of the Michigan Land Use Institute. "The
facts of this case were clear from the beginning. Walter Zaremba has no
right to drill in the Jordan Valley. The DEQ made the right decision." 

The DEQ has canceled a public hearing on the issue that was scheduled for
May 21 in Bellaire.

The controversy began in November of 1996, when Mr. Zaremba, an Elmira
businessman, submitted plans to drill an Antrim Shale natural gas well in
the Jordan Valley Management Area, a 22,000-acre stretch of wild forest in
Antrim and Charlevoix counties. The state-owned forest has been protected
from drilling since 1975 under a DNR management plan.

Mr. Zarembaís drilling proposal prompted statewide protest, including
formal opposition from the Department of Natural Resources. Two citizens
groups, the Michigan Land Use Institute and Friends of the Jordan River
Watershed, were joined by thousands of state residents in arguing
vigorously that the state has a legal obligation to prevent environmental
damage in the specially managed forest.

Citizens flooded the DEQ and the governorís office with phone calls and
letters opposing the drilling. Antrim and Charlevoix counties issued formal
statements of opposition. Newspaper editorial boards across Michigan also
called on the state to stop the drilling plans. 

"The people sent a message loud and clear that they want of one of
Michiganís great natural areas to remain free of oil and gas drilling,"
said Mr. Voss.

The DEQís decision today is a response to citizensí well defined arguments
in defense of the Jordan. Last fall, the DEQ appeared to be assisting Mr.
Zaremba in his effort to drill. The agency waived a state law that requires
80-acre spacing between Antrim wells, and granted Mr. Zaremba special
permission to drill on 40 acres. The DEQ also prevented citizens from
commenting on Mr. Zarembaís proposal by barring the public from testifying
at an administrative hearing in Lansing.

But last January, following the outpouring of public protest the Engler
Administration began to change its stance. The Governor mentioned the
importance of protecting the Jordan Valley in his State of the State
address. Soon after, the DEQ indicated publicly that it was likely to turn
down the drilling permit.

"We commend the DEQ for responding to the public will, " said Keith
Schneider, Executive Director of the Michigan Land Use Institute. "The
agency heard from Mr. Zaremba and from citizens, and in this case the
public interest was served."

A key factor in the debate was the refusal of the Department of Natural
Resources to grant Mr. Zaremba approval to lay a pipeline across
state-owned land. 

It is unclear how Mr. Zaremba will respond to the DEQís decision. In
previous interviews, Mr. Zarembaís attorney has indicated that he may
attempt to bypass DNR authority by obtaining approval to lay a pipeline
from the Michigan Public Service Commission .

The DNR has stated it will challenge any effort to gain MPSC approval. The
Michigan Land Use Institute also is prepared to contest such a move. 

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