Public agitation over the proposed Deep Borehole Field Test didn’t just boot the proposed engineering experiment from Spink County; it killed the whole project. Two weeks ago, a Department of Energy e-mail surfaced saying the government and contractor Battelle were dropping their $35-million contract:
The Obama administration is scrapping a contentious $35 million drilling project to study nuclear waste storage and geothermal energy after running into intense local opposition in North and South Dakota, according to an email obtained by Greenwire.
The Department of Energy and the Ohio-based Battelle Memorial Institute “mutually agreed to walk away” from a five-year contract announced earlier this year to drill a 3-mile-deep experimental borehole into a rock formation near Rugby, N.D., Patricia Temple, a DOE legislative affairs specialist, told employees in an email yesterday.
DOE will issue a new competitive solicitation in the coming weeks with “modified requirements, taking into account the lessons learned from our efforts thus far,” Temple wrote [Hannah Northey, “Protests Force DOE to Abandon Borehole Project,” E&E Publishing, 2016.07.21].
In our zombie-obsessed era, nothing is really dead. DOE seems likely to pitch a similar experiment to dig a really deep, straight hole. The difference will be that they’ll let the locals in on the deal much sooner:
When asked to elaborate on what “lessons” the agency would incorporate into its next solicitation, a DOE spokesman said the department learned that public engagement and support are “paramount” and that “relevant levels of government and other public stakeholders should be involved from the outset.”
“We believe that the likelihood for success for a project like this can be increased significantly if government and public stakeholder engagement and support is evident in advance of the selection of a site,” the spokesman said. “Therefore, the new solicitation for the project will emphasize the importance of early government and public stakeholder engagement and support” [Northey, 2016.07.21].
So instead of Governor Daugaard and other officials quietly pitching our state for the program and leaving it to intrepid bloggers to figure out what’s coming, borehole bidders apparently will be expected to include indications of public support in their proposals to DOE. That openness makes sense: instead of issuing a contract and then twice failing to secure a site, DOE can get a contractor to demonstrate that it has a viable site where the public is saying, “Come dig!”
Deflected boreholer Battelle can afford to walk away from this contract. On July 19, they got a $170-million contract to build armored trucks for the U.S. Special Operations Command.