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Energy says salt dome project 'effectively terminated'

SOUTH MISSISSIPPI — The U.S. Department of Energy says the proposal to use South Mississippi salt domes to store petroleum is “effectively terminated” because no federal money is designated or proposed for the project.

The department published notice Sept. 9 in the “Federal Register” that it had stopped preparing an environmental impact statement for the project. The notice comes months after the department removed the Richton Salt Dome storage project from its budget.

Previously, the government proposed using the dome to store 160 million barrels of oil as part of the nation’s Strategic Petroleum Reserve. The storage space would’ve been hollowed out of the dome by using 50 million gallons of water taken daily from the Pascagoula River for five years.

“With prior appropriated funds rescinded, and no new funds proposed, the SPR expansion project is effectively terminated,” said the Federal Register notice by David F. Johnson, the Department of Energy’s deputy assistant secretary for the office of petroleum reserves.

Raleigh Hoke, Mississippi organizer for the Gulf Restoration Network, told the Mississippi Press newspaper the project had widespread opposition.

“The people who live, work and play in South Mississippi rely on a healthy Pascagoula River and Mississippi Sound, and they shouldn’t be forced to sacrifice these amazing resources for a destructive and expensive boondoggle like the Richton salt dome project,” Hoke said.

The project had been supported by Republican U.S. Sen. Thad Cochran of Mississippi.

In March, the Department of Energy redirected the Richton Salt Dome project’s $71 million to operation and maintenance of the existing Strategic Petroleum Reserve. Cochran said at the time that the department’s decision was shortsighted.

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