EPA delays decision on Linc Energy aquifer exemption

2014-08-03T15:42:00Z 2014-08-03T22:31:06Z EPA delays decision on Linc Energy aquifer exemptionBy BENJAMIN STORROW Casper Star-Tribune The Billings Gazette
August 03, 2014 3:42 pm  • 

CASPER, Wyo. — An Australian company hoping to build an underground coal gasification project in Campbell County will have to wait a little longer.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency informed the Wyoming Department of Environmental Protection it needs longer to review Linc Energy’s request for an aquifer exemption. Both agencies’ approval is required for the project to move forward.

The Brisbane-based firm is hoping to test a pilot project near Wright, where air would be pumped into a coal seam underground. The oxidized coal would then be turned into gas.

But the plan has run into concerns from landowners in the region, who worry it could contaminate local water supplies. A 2013 investigation into a similar Linc project by regulators in the Australian state of Queensland found elevated levels of benzene and ammonia, among other contaminants, in groundwater near the company’s operations.

Linc is contesting that finding.

Earlier this year, the DEQ recommended that the EPA approve the request. The federal agency said it intended to decide within 20 days of receiving the department’s written comments. Those comments were officially delivered July 7.

Callie Videtich, acting assistant administrator for EPA Region 8, wrote DEQ Director Todd Parfitt in a letter dated July 24 to say the agency would not meet that deadline.

“In order to comply with our statutory and regulatory obligations and due to the volume of information associated with Linc Energy Ltd.’s request for an aquifer exemption, including the numerous comments received during the March 2014 public hearing, as well as the complexity of the issues involved, we will need more time to thoroughly analyze this aquifer exemption,” Videtich wrote.

It was unclear when the EPA will rule. The letter did not specify, and an agency spokeswoman offered no timeline on when a decision would be made.

The EPA is aware of the situation in Australia, said Region 8 spokeswoman Lisa McClain-Vanderpool. She did not say what role, if any, the Australian findings would play in the EPA’s decision.

“While we are still reviewing the information provided by the state, we believe we have what we need to fully consider the merits of this specific request for an aquifer exemption,” McClain-Vanderpool wrote in an email. “We intend to stay in close communication with the state while we conduct and finalize our review.”

State officials said they did not know when an announcement would be made.

“We’re waiting on them to give us a decision,” said DEQ spokesman Keith Guille.

A Linc representative declined comment for this story.

Copyright 2015 The Billings Gazette. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

More from the Gazette

Religious freedom bill advances in Wyoming House

3 hours agoLoading…

University of Wyoming gets closer to finding permanent deans

3 hours agoLoading…

Tribal liaison overhaul receives initial approval in Senate

4 hours agoLoading…

Appropriations committee skeptical of 'squishy' Medicaid numbers

4 hours agoLoading…

BLM resource advisory council to meet

11 hours agoLoading…
Wyoming volunteers conduct annual homeless population census

Wyoming volunteers conduct annual homeless population census

11 hours agoLoading…

Mental health agencies worry about loss of funds

15 hours agoLoading…
Wyoming sportsmen oppose land transfer study bill

Wyoming sportsmen oppose land transfer study bill

January 28, 2015 5:30 pmLoading…
Liz Byrd, first black woman in Legislature, dies at 88

Liz Byrd, first black woman in Legislature, dies at 88

January 28, 2015 5:15 pmLoading…
Proposed Medicaid compromise relies on virtual money, incentives to save

Proposed Medicaid compromise relies on virtual money, incentives to save

January 28, 2015 5:00 pmLoading…

Drug and assault charges result in 160-day sentence

January 28, 2015 10:01 amLoading…
Cheyenne airport may lose $850,000 in federal funding

Cheyenne airport may lose $850,000 in federal funding

January 28, 2015 9:40 amLoading…

Follow The Billings Gazette

Popular Stories

Get weekly ads via e-mail

Deals & Offers

Featured Businesses