RICHTON — Foes of a government plan to store petroleum reserves in salt domes in Mississippi say they are not placated by the U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE’s) decision to remove the project from its budget.
In March, the DOE redirected the project’s $71 million to operation and maintenance of the existing Strategic Petroleum Reserve. Previously, the government proposed using the Richton Salt Dome to store 160 million barrels of oil.
The storage space would have been hollowed out of the salt dome using 50 million gallons of water taken daily out of the Pascagoula River for five years.
Eric Richards of Gulf Conservation Coalition, which opposes the storage plan, tells the Mississippi Press he is pleased with the announcement.
Richards says, however, that environmental groups are watching to see if Congress some how works the money back into the DOE budget.
The Energy Department appears to be trying to save money and move toward energy independence, said Richards.
The department has said oil stored in the Richton Salt Dome would bring the nation’s oil reserves to one billion barrels.
Sen. Thad Cochran (R-Miss.) has described the decision as shortsighted. Cochran, the ranking Republican on the Senate Appropriations Committee, says Congress has passed a law that expanded the capacity of the reserve.
Sen. Roger Wicker (R-Miss.) had expressed concern about removing water from the Pascagoula River. He said he was also waiting on an environmental impact statement from the Energy Department, which was funded by Congress last year and has not been released.
Aides said Wicker wants to make sure all parties in Mississippi who have a stake in the project have the opportunity to share their views.
Rep. Gene Taylor (D-Miss.) remains in favor of the project but only if water from the Gulf of Mexico is used to carve out the salt dome and the resulting brine is discharged south of the barrier islands, said Ethan Rabin, Taylor’s legislative director.
Richards said he doesn’t agree with Taylor’s position, but thinks it is better than the DOE plan.
Raleigh Hoke of the Gulf Restoration Network, which has also opposed the project, said Cochran “continues to push for an economically and environmentally destructive project over not only the objections of many coast residents, but over the objections of the Department of Energy.”
Richards said the project would cost about $20 billion and provide no more than 120 jobs.