A candidate for South Dakota Legislature stood up to make a political campaign speech at the Deep Borehole Field Test informational meeting in Redfield last night. Capitalizing on the fear of nuclear waste and deep mistrust of the rampant corruption in South Dakota government expressed by other members of the 120-strong audience, this candidate…
- …plopped responsibility for this surprise project on our Republican Governor Dennis Daugaard;
- …said legislators knew nothing about the Borehole project;
- …and suggested that the Borehole project is part of a long plot through which former Battelle consultant, former Republican New Mexico Congresswoman, and now president of the School of Mines Heather Wilson has “feathered her nest.”
That candidate was not me. It was one of Redfield’s Republican legislators, Rep. Lana Greenfield (R-2/Doland). Here’s her statement:
We knew nothing about this. I went on my computer today and I e-mailed Prairie City, Kyle, Rapid City, Canton, Big Stone, Sioux Falls, all of my fellow legislators. Have they heard of this? Because obviously this started in the year 2012. Nope, nope, nope—nobody had heard of this. This is the Governor’s thing. This isn’t our thing.
He started out I believe the statement was the year 2012, and he expressed an interest in New Mexico for getting this technology, and voilà, and in the year 2013 they hire the former legislator from New Mexico Mrs. Heather Wilson, who is now president of the School of Mines. That is where she comes from. She was a former Representative, a former Congressperson in the United States from the Congressional district of New Mexico, and she was on the Department of Energy Commission. She was also a member of—well, you’re going to dispute this—she was tied in with Battelle and every other energy organization, and she feathered her nest.
Now, I’m just setting these guys [DBFT reps from Battelle and U.S. Department of Energy] aside. Maybe they don’t know this information, but I’m also telling you right now that our Legislature is not aware of this, either. So when it comes down to not reading the fine print or not knowing what’s going on, we’re not a part of this. This is the Governor’s deal, obviously
I don’t work for the Governor. I work for year, and I always will. I’m never going to be one of his cronies. I’m never going to be his subservient.
I just wanted you all to be aware of the fact that if something’s going forward and it says that we do not—we cannot put any kind of nuclear waste in South Dakota unless approved by the Governor OR the Legislature, well that tells me with the stroke of the pen perhaps the Governor could do that without our approval. So just know that I’m putting a disclaimer on this that the Legislature is not aware of this [Rep. Lana Greenfield, Deep Borehole Field Test informational meeting, Redfield, South Dakota, 2016.04.28].
On that nest-feathering, Rep. Greenfield is trying to draw lines back to instances Wilson was “deeply involved” in illegal lobbying for Sandia National Labs and did doubtful contract work for Sandia and three other major contractors managing the Department of Energy’s national laboratories. Battelle, the firm contracted by USDOE for the Borehole project, has received Wilson’s consulting services but is not among past contractors where Wilson’s work raised questions. Wilson’s School of Mines partnered with another firm, Parsons Brinckerhoff, in a bid for the Deep Borehole Field Test. The U.S. Department of Energy picked Battelle’s bid over the PB/Mines bid in January 2016, but after Battelle’s effort to site the DBFT in North Dakota fell through, Battelle picked South Dakota as its backup site and asked Mines in March 2016 to act as its local expert partner.
The thing is, I could have made that speech. Questions about the appropriateness of Heather Wilson’s appointment as Mines president were raised on this blog and elsewhere in the South Dakota Blogosphere, before Wilson’s first day on the job. I followed up with information on Wilson’s ethical challenges and her almost hilarious call for less regulation and oversight of contractors like herself in December 2014 and January 2015. Blog asset Donald Pay brought to our attention Governor Dennis Daugaard’s support for research on nuclear waste disposal in South Dakota shale back in 2013. Donald Pay broke open the Borehole story in August 2015 and helped me document and explain it for the first time in the South Dakota press in October 2015.
The best Rep. Greenfield can do now in the face of her nervous neighbors is claim she knew nothing about it when she could have known about all of the main points she made last night if she had just read the blogs. Better yet, she could have had all that knowledge ready when Session began this year and spent her time in Pierre asking the Governor and the School of Mines and anyone else she could nab some hard questions about the Borehole project and Wilson’s shady operations. She could have sounded the alarms to protect her constituents from this project (if they need protecting…and there’s a case to be made that that they only thing the Deep Borehole Field Test would bring to Spink County is eggheads and money) and real corruption in South Dakota. But she was too busy fighting teacher pay on false pretenses and smiting imaginary fears in the culture war.
That’s why we need legislators who will get their noses out of the right-wing playbook, study complicated issues like the Deep Borehole Field Test, and consistently challenge the powers that be on corruption, not just raise a stink when they need political cover.
p.s.: Early in the Redfield meeting, an audience member asked why Governor Daugaard himself hadn’t come to the meeting to talk about the Deep Borehole Field Test. Rep. Greenfield stood and told the audience she suspected Governor Daugaard wouldn’t want to attend a public meeting where he would have to answer “controversial” questions. Battelle spokesman T.R. Massey says Battelle invited Governor Daugaard to participate in the Borehole meeting, but the Governor had prior commitments in Rapid City. Massey says Nathan Sanderson, the Governor’s director of policy and operations, sent him the statement from the Governor that Battelle manager Rod Osborne read at the beginning of Thursday’s Redfield meeting.