Citizens gathered for another informational meeting on the Deep Borehole Field Test in Redfield last night. I’m searching for first-person accounts online, but prior online press indicates that Spink County residents from distinguished former governor Harvey Wollman on down strongly oppose allowing this project to take place in their county.
Meanwhile, Dakota Access LLC announces that every South Dakota landowner along the route of its proposed Bakken oil pipeline has signed an easement to allow the project to proceed:
Six months after the project was approved by the Public Utilities Commission, Dakota Access LLC has inked its last voluntary easements with landowners along the 272 miles of South Dakota land it needs to build its underground pipeline.
The company announced this week that 100 percent of the landowners in both North and South Dakota had signed easements without a legal fight. In Illinois, the voluntary easement figure is 98 percent. In Iowa, it’s 87 percent [John Hult, “Dakota Access Gets 100 Percent Compliance in South Dakota,” that Sioux Falls paper, 2016.05.11].
We should put “voluntary” in mock quotes:
The 100 percent figure in South Dakota means landowners Peggy Hoogestraat, who marched against Dakota Access and was sued by the company before the Public Utilities Commission hearing on the matter even began, have agreed to let the pipeline cross their property.
The vast majority of easements were signed long before the PUC hearing, but there were plenty of holdouts who’d hoped to see the project shot down.
Hoogestraat said Wednesday that she hadn’t yet heard the news about easements, but she said she understands how it happened. Even the project’s most vociferous opponents knew that PUC approval would leave them with little recourse but to sign voluntary easements or risk an expensive legal battle.
“Financially, I couldn’t afford to fight the big pipeline company,” Hoogestraat said [Hult, 2016.05.11].
The Department of Energy and Battelle Memorial Institute want to drill two holes, one 8.5 inches across, the second 17 inches across, both 3.1 miles deep, do some scientific tests, then fill them back up with clay and cement. The DOE/Battelle contract (now available online, thanks to Donald Pay’s diligent work!) says no radioactive waste may be dumped in these two holes (see p. 6 and p. 32). From every public indication, the Department of Energy has said it will use consent-based siting: if the community opposes having the Deep Borehole Field Test in its backyard, DOE will tell Battelle to take the project elsewhere. No one in the project has said anything about using emeinent domain to force anyone to surrender land for the Borehole project. Yet the suspicion that everyone involved with the project is lying and that the government plans to throw nuclear waste down those holes once they are drilled as led to widespread and vocal opposition to the project.
Dakota Access plans to run a 30-inch pipeline under 272 miles of South Dakota’s best farmland, including Spink County. They will place a pumping station seven miles south of Redfield. They have secured easements from landowners by threatening them with eminent domain. The Dakota Access pipeline will imperil our farmland and groundwater with 450,000 to 570,000 barrels of toxic material every day. The Spink County Commission and numerous landowners have pretty much shrugged. Public meetings in Bowdle, Redfield, and Iroquois in January 2015 brought little adamant opposition and more questions about safety procedures and when landowners would get paid.
South Dakota landowners are being inconvenienced by an oil pipeline leak right now. The environmental risk of the Dakota Access oil pipeline as proposed is real, significant, and greater than the potential environmental risk of the Deep Borehole Field Test not as proposed but only as imaginable if we discount numerous public statements from project officials, laws, and federal regulations.
I will not go as far as to condemn opposition to the Deep Borehole Field Test. But I will say that if your dander is up about digging two skinny science holes in the Spink County bedrock, you should be freaking out over an oil company strong-arming South Dakotans into surrendering their land for an oil pipeline.