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Chief of the Office of Oil
HQ Phone:  (503) 229-5438
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700 NE Multnomah St., Suite 600
Ground Water Protection Council
The Northern Michigan Geologic Repository Association
Bachelor of Science degree
Michigan Technological University
University of Arizona
corruption | Mining Action Group
Hal Fitch, state geologist and chief of the DEQ Office of Oil, Gas, and Minerals in Lansing, explained that the repository fulfills a function required by Part 601 of NREPA (Natural Resources Environmental Protection Act 451), which states, "The Michigan geological survey shall provide for the collection and conservation of cores, samples, and specimens for the illustration of every division of the geology and mineralogy of this state, to the extent that facilities and funds are available to do so."***
Fitch was a member of the NMGRA board of directors when the non-profit was established in 2008 but is no longer associated with it, he said. Fitch told Keweenaw Now he is aware of the community group's intention to request a Department of Justice investigation of NMGRA. "I would say go right ahead because there's nothing improper (about the non-profit), and at the time we (the DEQ and the DNR, Department of Natural Resources) were involved there was nothing improper about our involvement," Fitch said. In 2008 Fitch's department, the Office of Geological Survey, was the Geological Survey established by Part 601. In 2011 Part 601 was revised, and the Geological Survey was established within Western Michigan University. While that is a state university, the Geological Survey is no longer part of the DEQ, Fitch explained. Fitch was unable to say exactly when he and the DNR representative on the NMGRA board, Milton A. Gere, Jr., who is now retired, left NMGRA; but it was before 2011, he noted. "I never contemplated seeking funding from an outside source, such as industry, for the state of Michigan or for the association (NMGRA) during the time I was a member of it," Fitch added. "The association would be a separate entity that would receive funding later. That was the concept." Fitch noted he just wanted to get the association established. He said he believed industry, academia or grant sources might fund NMGRA later, when he would not be a part of it. He also said there was no connection between NMGRA and the issuing of mining permits. "No mining company or outside source offered any money to NMGRA while I was on the board of it," Fitch said. An Oct. 28, 2008, article in the Lake Superior Mining News, states that Hal Fitch (at that time director of the DEQ's Office of Geological Survey, or OGS) formed a 501(c)(3) non-profit corporation with Kennecott and Bitterroot Resources, "registering the non-profit under the DEQ's address with himself as the primary contact." The article also notes, "In an October 2007 e-mail, Fitch acknowledged 'that there would be a problem with a state agency forming a corporation' but 'came up with an innovative way to address the problem: formation of a non-profit corporation that is not a part of any state agency, but in which OGS is a participating member.'"**** The DEQ's Hal Fitch will just take Rio Tinto's word for it; and in turn, Hal Fitch wants every taxpayer in Michigan to take his word for it." The DEQ's Hal Fitch will just take Rio Tinto's word for it, and in turn, Hal Fitch wants every taxpayer in Michigan to take his word for it," explained Michelle Halley, an attorney based in Marquette.
Southfield vows to fight drilling project's approval | Jeremy Moss for State Representative
"This permit application was reviewed thoroughly to ensure all legal requirements were met and proper consideration was given due to the close proximity of surrounding houses," Hal Fitch, chief of the DEQ's Office of Oil, Gas, and Minerals, said in a statement Tuesday.
"We extended our review period and reached out to the community because we wanted to look closely at this permit request." A public hearing on the issue last month drew 1,000 residents and church members. The city of Southfield also has spoken out against the proposed drilling. Fitch said the project meets all statutory and legal requirements, and therefore the agency is obligated to grant the permit. A number of conditions have been placed on the project, Fitch said. Among them: "Our job is to strike the proper balance between respecting property rights and protecting people's quality of life," Fitch said.
Ban Michigan Fracking | A grassroots group dedicated to banning fracking - Part 4
Also on the study's steering committee are "stakeholders" Hal Fitch, the head regulator from the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality, and another DEQ rep, and two representatives from the industry organization Michigan Oil and Gas Association.
The Michigan DEQ, in addition to doling out the well permits to the oil and gas companies, takes in some of the profits from the production of natural gas. When landowners take it to court to prevent the forced pool, DEQ Assistant Supervisor of Wells, Hal Fitch, is the Lone Decider. Here's one example of a case in Kearney Township in Antrim County.
Ban Michigan Fracking | A grassroots group dedicated to banning fracking | Page 5
During the March 8 meeting, Hal Fitch, DEQ Assistant Supervisor of Wells, whose office approves oil and gas drilling permits, explained Michigan's compulsory pooling law like so: A well site requires 40 acres.
If landowners who own 38 of the acres sign a lease, but a landowner owning the remaining 2 acres refuses to sign a lease, the state (DEQ) can put the landowner into a "pool" for the purposes of drilling on the site. At the Irish Hills meeting, one man repeatedly asked Fitch for clarification: "If I choose not to sign the land lease or whatever, you can force me into it, and not only are you going to pay me slight royalty, half of what my lot is worth, but force me to pay for the development of the well that I don't want on my land?" And Fitch responded: "Nobody is forced to pay anything. . . I guess we could just leave you out of the production, in which case, the well's going to be drilled anyway, but you're just not going to get your share of the production of it." The three-person panels included Clean Water Action's regulations attorney, Susan Harley, the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality's supervisor of wells, Hal Fitch, and a university geologist. (Recall the Critical Path's call to stand shoulder-to-shoulder and use trusted local interlocutors.)
Ban Michigan Fracking | A grassroots group dedicated to banning fracking
If Michigan were granted primacy by EPA, the DEQ would be able to hold hearings, but it would be up to Hal Fitch, assistant supervisor of wells to determine whether there was adequate public interest to hold such a hearing.
MEC interviewed Hal Fitch about this. Fitch is DEQ's assistant supervisor of wells and directs the Office of Oil, Gas and Minerals. He served for many years under the supervisor of wells, DEQ director Wyant. Saying at first that gas storage standards are "strict" and "comprehensive," Fitch then admitted inspections are infrequent, and DEQ standards really are not very good: Those inspection reports contain "not a lot of detail, frankly," he said. "With what's going on in California, we're looking at our process ourselves, to see if there's some improvements we can make," Fitch said. On September 22 Ban Michigan Fracking demanded of Hal Fitch, DEQ's supervisor of wells, that DEQ order the company to paint over the offending language. Fitch refused. He wrote back saying there was "no evidence of any violations of either Part 615 or Part 625", the laws he administers.