LANSING — As a Michigan Department of Environmental Quality official said in the House Energy Policy Committee today that his department has a “pretty safe record” with “an excellent handle” on environmental protection, MDEQ officials are scrambling this week to clean up a leak of corrosive and wasteful brine seeping from a closed oil well within a Southfield neighborhood.

This leak and controversial permits to drill in densely-populated areas of Oakland and Macomb counties led State Representative Jeremy Moss (D-Southfield) and Pete Lucido (R-Shelby Township) to introduce House Bill 5582, which would allow local units of government to create local restrictions on oil and gas exploration in their jurisdictions.

The proposal would also require the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality (MDEQ) to honor these local regulations when considering oil and gas exploration permits.

“Elected local government representatives understand the needs of their communities better than any Lansing bureaucrat, which is why local governments should be allowed to restrict disruptive oil and gas exploration in their communities,” Moss said. “This bill wouldn’t create a ban on oil and gas exploration in Michigan, but it would allow city councils, township trustees and county commissioners to decide what is appropriate for their communities. These officials are held accountable by local voters, whereas an MDEQ employee is not, so this would restore local control to our communities.”

Oil and gas exploration has become a contentious topic in places such as Southfield, where a drilling permit was requested for a heavily populated area at 9 Mile and Evergreen. Hundreds of citizens registered their objections — including the Southfield Mayor and the entire City Council — but the MDEQ overrode the will of the people and issued the permit anyway.

Shelby Township faced a similar controversial oil drilling permit.

“As a Republican, I usually seek to defer to local control, and in the instance of oil and gas exploration I am extremely sensitive to the need for more local control. Recently, in my district, there was an issue of drilling for oil and gas deposits extremely close to a residential neighborhood and the local township government had little to no power to intervene,” Lucido said. “The government which is closest to the people is the most responsive to the people, and our local municipalities need to have a voice in where, when, and how oil and gas exploration takes place.”