SMRI and Blue Ribbon Commission’s Conflicts of Interest.
As much as the Corporate Program known as “Responsible Care” is plastered on the Water Tower near Bayou Corne, and is a global initiative for every Corporate Member at the Napoleonville Salt Dome, but is not associated with Texas Brine in any way, except for the fact they are members along with every Company that does business on the Dome, yet is often misunderstood as being Texas Brine’s motto. Of course, as we’ve seen responsible care is the last thing to be associated with Texas Brine, LLC.
That is not the case with the Solution Mining Research Institute, which was actually Co-Founded by Texas Brine.
Yet again, almost every single Company at the Dome is a Member, as is many of the Service Companies, and Support Services are shown to be Members of the Solution Mining Research Institute. It seems to be a prerequisite to doing business there.
What is much more disturbing is the fact that nearly half of the Members of the Governor Bobby Jindal’s appointed Blue Ribbon Commission are also Members of the Solution Mining Research Institute, (SMRI), or closely affiliated. These incestuous relationships call into question the objectivity of such a Commission whose lion’s share of it’s members owe allegiance to a Texas Brine co-founded Solution Mining Research Institute, and yet one that owes no allegiance at all to the people of Grand Bayou/Bayou Corne.
This is shameful and disingenuous at best, but, of course, that is only one man’s opinion.
At the website of the Institute, are some disturbing admissions, such as;
“The Solution Mining Research Institute (SMRI) is interested in the production of salt brine and the utilization of the resulting caverns for the storage of oil, gas, chemicals, compressed air and waste” (sic)
as well as;
“SMRI has the following purposes:
- Sponsor and engage in research related to solution mining, cavern storage/utilization, and environmental effects thereof.
- Present papers of current interest to the industry relative to solution mining and cavern utilization. For information on presenting papers at or attending our next conference, see ‘CONFERENCES section.
- Serve as a technology center and representative for the industry.
- Assist in the promulgation of governmental regulations and laws affecting the solution mining industry.”
Number 4 will become very disturbing, very quickly as you shall soon see.
Now, let’s take a look at the Blue Ribbon Commission Members:
Pierre Berest, Ph.D., Research Director at France’s Ecole Polytechnique, member of French Commission for Underground Storage Safety, former president of the Solution Mining Research Institute.
James Linn, Ph.D., Geotechnical consultant, former president of Solution Mining Research Institute, former Underground Storage Technology Manager for Sandia National Laboratories.
John Voigt, Executive Director of Solution Mining Research Institute, President of Voigt Mining and Geotechnical, specializing in salt geology and brine/water inflow evaluation.
Doesn’t look too good so far, does it, but not too damning, until we get to the other members, that is. Please keep this one fact in mind when you see the following names, attached to Sandia National Laboratories, and CB&I, (formerly Shaw Group) for they are members of the Solution Mining Research Institute.
David Borns, Ph.D., Geotechnology and Engineering Program Manager for Sandia National Laboratories, research focused on subsurface monitoring for environmental applications, risk assessments and simulations.
Gary Hecox, Ph.D., Senior Hydrogeologist and GIS Analyst with CB&I, technical lead for CB&I Bayou Corne response team.
Blayne Hartman, Ph.D., Geochemist with Hartman Environmental Geoscience, contributor to regulatory guidance documents on vapor intrusion for EPA and several state agencies.
Now I include Mr. Hartman because of his work with the EPA, which….is a member of the Solution Mining Research Institute. This is not a typo; the Environmental Protection Agency is a member of SMRI.
As for the rest of the Commission, I have no opinion, and not casting aspersions upon any of the members of the Blue Ribbon Commission or their character, nor integrity. However it is apparent that conflicts of interests do arise, especially in light of the information as listed above, and becomes highly sensitive where the Blue Ribbon Commission is concerned, since they have been charged with public safety, and is of immediate concern for the residents, as stated in the Blue Ribbon Commission’s Mission Statement;
“To provide benchmarks for the recommendations, the commission will address at least two key factors, including appropriate conditions to determine sustained public safety and the data needed to assess those conditions. The commission will make recommendations on what the safety benchmarks should be and on when they have been sufficiently met.”
Now for information that has absolutely stunned me, and still cannot quite believe, but here it is in black and white and a possible reason why the State seems to be squarely upon the side of industry, especially in light of #3 and #4 of SMRI’s Mission Statement:
“Assist in the promulgation of governmental regulations and laws affecting the solution mining industry.”
An alarming statement considering a member of the Solution Mining Institute is:
Louisiana Office of Conservation
Class R Member
Mr. Joseph S. Ball, Jr.
Post Office Box 94275
Baton Rouge, 70804-9275, LA
+1 225 342 5569
MEMBERS OF THE BLUE RIBBON COMMISSION
MEMBERS OF THE SOLUTION MINING RESEARCH INSTITUTE
I leave it to the People affected by this disaster to make their own minds up as to the information contained above. I am merely the researcher and the messenger.
Personally I have grave reservations over any Texas Brine co-founded Solution Mining Research Institute’s abilities to affect the decisions of the Blue Ribbon Commission as well as Louisiana State Government, when it’s members include the key elements of the State and Federal governments that are charged with regulation and safety of the people of the State of Louisiana and beyond.
Now we can understand why all common sense and restrictive bills upon solution mining fall by the wayside. My heart also goes out to the people of Jefferson Island and Lake Peigneur, for AGL Resources is also a member of this very powerful and politically influential Solution Mining Research Institute.