Today, several groups, including Buckeye Environmental Network, Concerned Ohio River Residents, OVEC, Freshwater Accountability Project, and the Sierra Club, sent a letter to the Ohio Department of Natural Resources (ODNR) urging the director to reject applications by Powhatan Salt Company/Mountaineer NGL Storage for three planned solution mining wells. The Division of Oil and Gas Resources Management (DOGRM) has issued draft permits for the wells. If finalized, the permits would allow Powhatan Salt Company to begin constructing the underground salt caverns that Mountaineer NGL Storage would use to store ethane and other gas liquids.
In the letter, the groups argue that Powhatan Salt Company did not provide DOGRM the necessary information to evaluate the public health and environmental risks of the solution mining wells, which could seriously contaminate the drinking water of more than five million people. Additionally, DOGRM appeared to provide no response to the comments submitted by experts on multiple deficiencies in Powhatan Salt Company’s permit applications.
“We are still waiting for the completion of the public records request made to the ODNR for all the comments received on the initial permit application. From what we can see, concerned citizens’ comments were mostly ignored — even those of geologic experts. There is no adequate due process to assure that such a risky project could be permitted for safe operation. The fact that it must be shoved through without addressing serious risks demonstrates once again that the ODNR Division of Oil and Gas serves the toxic, polluting fracking/petrochemical industries and not the best interests of Ohioans,” said Leatra Harper, Managing Director of Freshwater Accountability Project.
“ODNR’s failure to respond to dozens of technical deficiencies with Powhatan Salt Company’s solution mining well permits undercuts our right to transparent public information about this project and jeopardizes the health and water access of the five million people who rely on the Ohio River for drinking water.” said Ben Hunkler, an organizer with Concerned Ohio River Residents.
“The lack of response to citizen comments verifies the agency is working with a predetermined outcome for the Powhatan Salt wells. Citizens continue to demand answers on the safety of this proposal,” said Teresa Mills, Executive Director of Buckeye Environmental Network.
“There are too many safety and environmental hazards that could jeopardize the health and safety of Ohio River Valley residents, not to mention the environmental disaster these proposed wells could inflict on a region already overburdened with pollution,” said Megan Hunter, Earthjustice staff attorney.
“One of the primary functions of a government is to protect the health and safety of its residents, but by pushing these permits through, the State of Ohio is failing at even this basic test. These gas liquid storage caverns pose serious threats to the health of Ohio’s water, people, and communities, and should be given a closer review than the woefully inadequate process ODNR is using. We know we can’t trust polluting corporations to look out for our best interests, but we should at least be able to trust our own government,” said Cheryl Johncox, Organizer for the Sierra Club’s Beyond Dirty Fuels Campaign.
Among the many concerns outlined, groups highlighted how Powhatan Salt Company failed to demonstrate how its proposed wells meet basic industry safety standards, and that its permit applications did not include basic information expected of any project that would involve subsurface drilling and mining activity.