Sisters of Providence enter into oil exploration agreement with CountryMark
The Sisters of Providence of Saint Mary-of-the-Woods have entered into an agreement with CountryMark, an Indiana oil exploration, production, refining and marketing company, to search for and extract oil from grounds owned by the Congregation.
Discussions and negotiations began nearly a year ago and preliminary seismic testing has revealed a possible oil source near the intersection of Bolton Road and U.S. 150 on the northeast corner of the Congregation’s property. On July 15, 2013, the Sisters of Providence signed a 12-month seismic option with CountryMark and seismic testing will begin this week. If oil is discovered, a three-year oil and gas lease of 875 acres would follow. There are three possible phases ahead after the seismic testing: obtaining permits, exploration (drilling) and production.
“This was a very challenging decision for us to make,” said Sister Denise Wilkinson, the Congregation’s general superior. “We believe we must remain true to beliefs and practices about environmental protection and education as best we can. At the same time, we realize this is an opportunity that will help sustain us and our grounds for future good.”
“We have made a determined effort to negotiate a lease agreement with requirements to minimalize environmental risks and require that any land that is disturbed be restored to at least its present state or better,” said Sister Denise.
Drilling/pumping will be monitored 24 hours a day, fracking is never permitted and the risk of contamination of surface water is virtually non-existent. No pooled oil or other pollutants will be allowed to collect and flaring of gas will be kept to an absolute minimum.
The Congregation consulted Robert Jean, Ph. D., assistant professor of Ecology at Saint Mary-of-the-Woods College, about the process. He reviewed the information and stated that he is comfortable with the arrangements made. He corroborated that CountryMark, a co-op owned and controlled by its farmer members, has a clean record on the Indiana Department of Environmental Management website. CountryMark’s primary focus is producing fuel (diesel and biodiesel) and lubricants for farmers. The fuel is used in 65-70% of the farm equipment in Indiana and 50 percent of school buses.
Financially, the first 12-month seismic option signed agreement generated $25 per acre or approximately $22,000 in new revenue for the Congregation. Any future revenue is dependent on the results of the seismic testing and any oil located.
For further information, follow the coverage of the issue in the Terre Haute Tribune Star and read a reflection from General Superior Sister Denise Wilkinson that also appeared in the Terre Haute Tribune Star on the deliberations that went into making the decision.
About the Sisters of Providence
The Sisters of Providence, a congregation of 214 women religious, with 300 Providence Associates, collaborate with others to create a more just and hope-filled world through prayer, education, service and advocacy. The Sisters of Providence have their motherhouse at Saint Mary-of-the-Woods, located just northwest of downtown Terre Haute, Ind., which is now listed in the National Register of Historic Places. Saint Mother Theodore Guerin founded the Sisters of Providence at Saint Mary-of-the-Woods in 1840. Today, Sisters of Providence minister in 13 states, the District of Columbia and Asia, through works of love, mercy and justice. More information about the Sisters of Providence and their ministries can be found at SistersofProvidence.org.