Residents united in opposition to borehole project
February 8, 2017
By Thomas Garcia
QCS Senior Writer
The general consensus for Quay County residents appeared to be opposition to a proposed borehole project as more than 180 people showed up to a public meeting in Nara Visa Tuesday night.
"This is a tight community and look at what this project has done to us," said James Valentine, Nara Visa resident. "We are here bickering with each other whether we agree with it or don't agree. That's wrong, all of it is wrong."
Valentine was one of the several residents from the county that spoke out in opposition during a public outreach meeting at the Nara Visa Community Center.
Two companies recently began talking to Quay County commissioners and officials about conducting a deep borehole field test near Nara Visa to determine if deep boreholes might offer a safe and practical alternative to mined geologic repositories for smaller forms of nuclear waste.
Atlanta-based ENERCON and DOSECC Exploration Services of Salt Lake City, which were hired by the Department of Energy for the project, decided to host the Tuesday night community meeting after several residents expressed concerns regarding the project, saying they believed the DOE would not stay true to their promises to bring no nuclear waste into the county.
"Is there any way that you can fool yourselves that you have community buy-in from the residents?" Valentine asked officials at the meeting, adding that a resolution that was passed by Quay County Commissioners in October supporting the project was signed by falsehood given to them by the energy companies.
"When we came into Quay County, we approached the commission and asked for recommendations on who to talk to about this project," said ENERCON President Peter Mast, adding that they began to talk to residents and held two public meetings where more than 40 residents met with company officials.
"Several residents remained after the meeting and spoke with us about the project," Mast added.
"I was at that meeting and when asked if anybody was interested, only two out of 45 people raised their hands," Valentine said.
Ed Hughes, a Nara Visa land owner, addressed residents about the potential dangers the project could result in. He expressed the same concerns during a Jan. 30 county commission meeting.
Hughes said one of the main concerns is if this test is conducted in Nara Visa and is successful, are the DOE going to simply complete the project and walk away? How likely is it that the DOE will do testing, have success and then move on to an untested site to proceed with this type of project? he continued.
"The possibility of boreholes being used to store nuclear waste is the whole reason we are here," Hughes said.
Hughes said with a successful test, there is an increased chance that the DOE would consider placing a nuclear waste depository site in the county years later.
Hughes added that to drill these test holes, the companies will have to go through the Ogallala Aquifer that supplies drinking water to Quay County and other surrounding counties, and there is a chance for contaminating the aquifer during drilling.
"We have worked 50 years to build a ranch and life in this community and would not support a project that would threaten either," countered Elaine James, land owner of the potential project site.
James and her husband, Louis, have been in discussion with the two companies for the use of 10 acres of their land for the potential project.
"My family and I prayed long and hard about this decision," Elaine James said. "In the end, we felt we could better protect our neighbors by having the project done on our private-owned land."
"The thought was if we offered a section of our private-owned land, we would have more control over the extent of the project," she continued. "I do not want nuclear waste stored on our land. But the facts are this project will not have nuclear waste involved."
"Not wanting to compare nuclear waste to apples, but the concern about the possibility of nuclear waste in Nara Visa reminds me of 'Chicken Little,'" she added. "The apple hit Chicken Little on the head, and he ran around raising a panic when there was no immediate threat."
"It is not what Louis (James) would do that I'm afraid of; it's what Louis couldn't stop from happening because of this project," Valentine said.
Logan resident Tom Smith asked company officials if hypothetically, the commission rescinded the resolution of support, "would you drop the project at that point or go to the state to seek approval?"
"We will not go to the state to seek approval," said Chip Cameron, ENERCON spokesman. "If the commission rescinds the resolution, we will report that to the DOE. The input from this meeting will be reported to the DOE. These will all be factors in the DOE's decision."
County commissioners attended the meeting but did not conduct any business and offered no commentary due to the open meetings act. The resolution has been placed on the Feb. 13 commission meeting agenda.