If the U.S. Department of Energy is serious about “consent-based siting,” then it will be taking the Deep Borehole Field Test someplace other than Spink County, South Dakota. Meeting yesterday in Redfield, the Spink County Commission conceded that public support for the engineering experiment is virtually non-existent:
Commissioner Cindy Schultz said she’s had many people contact her and urge her to vote against allowing the deep borehole drilling.
“Not one person has contacted me asking me to vote for it,” said Schultz, before fellow Commissioner Jeff Albrecht asked her if she had heard from Gov. Dennis Daugaard.
“Excuse me, there was one,” Schultz replied.
Jeff Albrecht said he also has had many calls from people expressing opposition.
“I have had four people that voiced an opinion to me that this project should go forward,” Jeff Albrecht said. “One of them is the governor, and one of them is the president of South Dakota School of Mines and Technology (Heather Wilson). But I’ve had well over 100 people call or write letters or stop me on the street and say this is not something that we want in our county. It is representational government, and so I can’t foresee my vote for the project in any way, shape or form” [Shannon Marvel, “Spink County Commissioners to Sign Letter Opposing Borehole Drilling Project,” Aberdeen American News, 2016.06.10].
Mines president Heather Wilson may have pull with federal contractor friends and partners in illegal lobbying, but not with Spink County’s elected officials. They are more inclined to listen to the thousands Spink County residents who former Governor Harvey Wollmann told them have signed letters of opposition to the project, which is supposed to test the feasibility of drilling three-mile-deep holes and depositing military nuclear waste in bedrock. The commission decided to compose a formal letter, presumably to the Department of Energy and lead Borehole contractor Battelle, stating four of five commissioners oppose the project. Neither DOE nor Battelle have filed any application with the county yet, but the four-out-of-five opposition indicates no such application would pass.
The Deep Borehole Field Test will only test the drilling and deposit non-nuclear test canisters; even if this experiment succeeds, the Department of Energy says local aquifers make Spink County unsuitable for nuclear waste disposal. However, belief that the feds and the School of Mines and Governor Daugaard are lying and that the Borehole would bring nuclear waste to Spink County is outweighing promises of $1 million in local economic stimulus from drilling activities and 50 to 60 on-site workers.
Essentially, Spink County is telling Battelle to buzz off and take the Deep Borehole Field Test elsewhere. Is there any chance Battelle and the feds would find a warmer reception in another South Dakota county atop that good granite bedrock, or will they move on from South Dakota as they left North Dakota after one rejection there last winter and seek open arms and deep rock in previous bidders South Carolina or Texas?