WHEELING - Planning Commission members want to see proof of state and federal approval before allowing GreenHunter Water to build its natural gas frack water recycling plant in Warwood, but company leaders believe the commission is just trying to prevent construction.
"There is no question in my mind that they are using this as a stall tactic," said John Jack, vice president of business development for GreenHunter. "I have done $400 million worth of construction over the past four years. I know what I am doing."
During the commission's July 8 meeting, members voted to delay considering GreenHunter's site plan until the 5 p.m. Aug. 12 meeting in Wheeling City Council Chambers. Commissioners also delayed considering the site plan during the June meeting.
"The only person who is stalling this project is Mr. Jack," said Commission Chairman Howard Monroe. "It is not unusual for the planning commission to ask for this information."
The main points of contention seem to involve the West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection, as well as the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and/or the Nuclear Regulatory Commission. City officials want some sort of documentation from these agencies to certify that GreenHunter's project meets their requirements.
During the last meeting, Jack said, "West Virginia DEP has oversight over our operations," noting the agency would do a "walk-through" inspection once the plant is completed.
DEP spokeswoman Kathy Cosco said until the plant is up and running, her agency probably would not have any involvement with the GreenHunter project.
"As long as they are not drilling - and are not going to discharge anything into the air or into the water - they don't need any permit from us," she said. "Companies come up with new technologies all the time. Until the plant is running, we don't know what they are going to be doing."
Since GreenHunter is not seeking to drill or discharge anything from the Warwood site, Cosco is not sure the DEP will be involved with the project.
"All (Jack) has to do is verify that he does not need a permit," said Monroe. "We cannot just do something of this significance on just a, 'Trust us.' We need to see this is some formal way."
Jack also said he is not sure he will be able to get any sort of confirmation letter from the NRC concerning radioactivity at the site. Though radium, uranium and radon are considered radioactive, Jack has said these elements will be minuscule in volume at the Warwood plant. He also said the company's workers will wear radiation detectors while on the job.
"There is no way were are going to get that letter," Jack said, noting he might be able to provide certified letters to the city that state his company cannot get such documents from the DEP or NRC.
"We are going to do the best we can to meet the city's requirements," he said. "The problem now with these delays is that we are going to have to build in the fall when it is cool and rainy. That is what we were trying to avoid."