More than a year after the initial submission of an application to bury oil drilling waste near Nikiski the state has forwarded the permit to the its legal department for a final review.
The permit was sent to the State of Alaska Department of Law last week as required before the state will issue the go ahead to AIMM Technologies, which hopes to build and operate a monofill storage site for drilling waste produced by the nearby oil industry.
How long the permit will remain under legal review is unknown, but when it emerges it will likely allow AIMM to build and operate the storage site.
Nate Emery, Environmental Program Specialist at the Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation said that the work of the legal review is to ensure that AIMM’s application and the DEC’s work to issue the permit fit within the state regulations and statutes.
“There is no regulatory timeframe for the permit to be issued,” Emery said.
“We’re still in wait and see mode,” Brooks Bradford, president of AIMM Technologies, said.
As the permit is reviewed and moves up through the chain, Bradford said AIMM’s tack is to step back and wait for the permit’s actual issuance — along with what, if any, conditions are required by the DEC permit.
AIMM proposes to build a series of engineered and lined “disposal cells” that will hold a total 10.2 million gallons of waste and be filled over eight years. One cell is to be built and filled at a time. Each subsequent cell would be built as the prior one nears capacity. Much of the drilling waste will be “dewatered” and that contaminated water trucked to another disposal site in Anchorage.
If the permit shows up in AIMM’s mail, work on the monofill site will start. Until then, AIMM is working to support other Kenai operations and their work on the North Slope.
Conditions are expected with the permit, if the legal department approves them, Emery said.
District 3 Assemblyman Ray Tauriainen represents Nikiski on the Kenai Borough Assembly. Generally, Tauriainen says he is pro-development, as long as the environmental concerns are met.
“I’m not sure how (AIMM) met all the claims about possible problems,” Tauriainen said.
Tauriainen said that he sees little overall economic benefit coming to the community as a result of the monofill site, beyond the benefit to AIMM’s Nikiski office.
“I would hope that DEC will have permitted based on good science,” Tauriainen said.
The state is not in the business of land use decision-making, AIMM chose the location, Emory said.
“AIMM chose the Kenai Borough, which is zoned mostly rural, has very little in the way of zoning restriction governance,” Emory said, “Our participation is objective and follows state law.”
Public opposition doesn’t play a factor just by the fact that they don’t want it. If folks don’t like it, they have to act locally at the borough level, Emery said.
Acknowledging that some people see the drilling waste as “poison” going into the ground, Kenai Borough Mayor Mike Navarre said that AIMM is going through the established process and seems to be meeting state standards. Something like drilling waste disposal is outside the borough’s expertise and responsibility, he said.
“We’ll just roll with it,” Navarre said. “I assume that the agencies will do a good job monitoring.”
Some in the community fear the site will either join or affect a neighboring tract known as the Arness Septage site, which has a past history of contamination. An additional groundwater monitoring well was installed at the site last week, according to DEC’s contaminated sites database.
AIMM installed six groundwater-monitoring wells to satisfy the requirements of the Solid Waste Program’s permit application, according to DEC.
Before forwarding the permit to law for review, DEC spent the better part of a year working with AIMM to get the application, which included plans for closing and capping the site when full, into approvable form. One example includes AIMM’s original claim that they could close and monitor the site for $58,000. The DEC responded saying that the figure should reflect the cost of the state coming in closing and monitoring the site. AIMM revised the cost to $589, 000; the state figured it to be nearer $1.1 million.
Reach Greg Skinner at email@example.com.