By Pat Maurer
The proposed natural gas processing plant in Hamilton Township is still in the early planning stages said Roz Elliott, Vice President of Public Affairs and Investor Relations at DCP Midstream.
The Colorado based company has a purchase agreement in place for property two miles north of the Townline Lake Road and Rogers Road intersection that is now owned by Mid Michigan Gas Storage. They have applied for and received an air quality permit from the Department of Environmental Quality.
That permit is the first requirement in a long process to get the plant approved. If all State and Federal permits are approved, the company will purchase the property and submit a detailed site plan to the Hamilton Township Planning Commission and the board.
The plant would take natural gas from existing pipelines and process it by removing impurities. Elliott said the plant would also remove ethane, propane and butane, called natural gas liquids, which would be sent to refineries that make ingredients for household use. “You are probably touching, holding or using synthetic items every day that are made from natural gas liquids,” Elliott said. “We are a part of the development of our country’s very important domestic energy and Clare County would be playing a role in that important process.”
She continued, “The plant here would be close to the Utica and Collingwood natural gas shale area.
A July 29 meeting at Hamilton Township brought out many concerned citizens with questions for the DEQ and DCP, with a final meeting held July 31 in Lansing.
At the township meeting July 29, DCP representatives said before they moved forward on any application for a new plant, they would review local ordinances to make sure they meet all requirements.
Township Supervisor David Cooper said, “Is it going to come in? We don’t know. We will find out more when the company applies for a Special Use Permit and provides us with a site plan.”
The township board is in the process now of updating their ordinances and Special Use Permit variances as part of the Master Plan, Cooper said.
Cooper said the township board found out about the project when they saw that DCP had applied for the DEQ air quality permit in the local paper. “I called the DEQ and asked for a public meeting in Hamilton Township. At that meeting DEQ officials explained the [permit] process and how they handle research on the proposed project.”
He said that DCP officials at the township meeting said the plant footprint would be about six acres and construction of the facility would take about 18 months.
Cooper added that three or four concerned township residents also attended the final meeting on the permit in Lansing before the permit was approved by the DEQ.
He also said that Mid Michigan Gas Storage owns 150 or 155 acres at the proposed site. “We don’t know for sure how much of that property is being sold to DCP,” he said.
An August 9 article in the Review said the plant would have ten engines, six for compression and four as part of the cryogenic filtrations systems plus three turbines, four heaters and two small emergency venting flares. They will also have 12 storage tanks to hold water and other residual moisture extracted by processing.
Citizens at the township meeting in July expressed concern over emissions and their effect on local gardens, and how the DEQ could monitor the plant and address air quality complaints in a timely fashion since their office is in Saginaw.
Residents opposing the proposed facility have submitted several letters to the editor over the past weeks since the meetings.
Resident and owner of Devil’s Knob Golf Course Joan Baumer Cooper wrote, “People come to the Devil’s Knob Golf Course to relax and enjoy fresh air and peace and quiet. I am concerned that the hazardous emissions, foul smell and noise created by this facility will scare business away.”
Michele Single wrote that she agrees with Cooper’s letter. She owns lots on Townline Lake and said family members own another lot. “We are all against the proposed DCP Midstream facility.” She added, “…the standards for control over air, water, etc., pollution are not as good as they say it is.”
“I personally am scared of this facility,” she said.
Another resident Barbara Lambdin wrote, “This is a farming and tourist area. Will people still want to visit our lakes, streams, golf courses, campgrounds, and hunting clubs with the noise and odors that would travel through polluted air?”
County Commissioner Rick LaBoda, whose wife Finette is Hamilton Township Clerk, said, “We are all a little worried about it. We have natural gas all over out here and we have even had problems with gas coming up through the ground and showing up in some wells in the past. I know all the gas is here, I’m just worried about the infrastructure.”
In a phone interview Wednesday, DCP executive Elliott said DCP Midstream has 63 plants in 18 states across the country including one near Gaylord that employs 24 local people.
“Environmentally we go beyond State guidelines for safety. We use the latest, best technology for plant operations and safety,” she said.
Elliott added that hundreds of people would be involved in the construction of the new facility in Hamilton Township and that the company would use local workers and “local goods and services” for much of the process. She said after the plant is operational they would employ 10 to 15 people. “We would be making a long term commitment and be very involved in the community,” she said. “We hire and train locally, work with local fire and police departments and even offer free safety training whenever possible.”
She said, “We are a large company and pay taxes, improving the economy of the area.” She added that the company works with local colleges that have oil and gas production programs. “We are proud of our commitments and being part of the communities where our plants are located,” she said.