Baton Rouge: Louisiana Commissioner of Conservation James Welsh announced today that he is ordering Texas Brine LLC to offer assistance to residents covering the full period of the Assumption Parish evacuation ordered in response to the development in early August of a sinkhole near the company’s abandoned brine cavern in the Napoleonville Salt Dome.
The original Texas Brine permit for the brine cavern operation located closest to the sinkhole discovered on the property operated by Texas Brine on Aug. 2 requires the operator, in the event of development of a sinkhole and an evacuation, to provide assistance for residents in areas deemed to be at immediate potential risk.
At this time however, Texas Brine has only agreed to provide assistance to evacuees prospectively. The Commissioner of Conservation believes that this does not meet the guidelines of Texas Brine’s permit application. State and local officials are calling on Texas Brine to provide assistance to evacuees dating back to the beginning of their evacuation.
Local officials are also calling on Texas Brine to meet the requirements of their permit application.
Assumption Parish Police Jury President Martin Triche said, “Unfortunately, Texas Brine doesn’t seem to understand that our citizens’ problems started long before their disaster contractor showed up today. Texas Brine needs to honor the commitment it made to our community when it said it would make a ‘significant contribution’ to assisting the people who must evacuate because they are affected by the sinkhole near the company’s storage cavern. To not pay the affected residents retroactively would be a slap in the face.”
Assumption Parish Sheriff Mike Waguespack said, “Today we learned that Texas Brine doesn’t consider expenses that have been piling up for weeks for our residents to be the company’s responsibility, despite what its permit says. It is completely unacceptable that the company thinks it can get away with shortchanging the people who have been inconvenienced for weeks.”
Commissioner Welsh said he is invoking provisions agreed to by the operator in the original permit application following Texas Brine’s refusal to make assistance payments that began today retroactive to the issuance of the August 3 evacuation order by Assumption Parish.
Texas Brine’s original permit application, as approved, specifically makes provisions for assistance during an evacuation following the development of a sinkhole near the company’s operation, regardless of whether the company’s actions were the direct cause.
The “Catastrophic Subsidence Prevention” section of the application includes a provision stating that, if a sinkhole forms near the company’s operation, regardless of cause, the company will take steps that include assisting affected residents.
The agreement further states that, in the event of sinkhole formation, “if the area of collapse appears to threaten any residences, the occupants will be assisted if evacuation is required.”
The Commissioner's Compliance Orderon provisions in permit application #IMD 2012-016 is at: http://dnr.louisiana.gov/assets/OC/BC_All_Updates/BC_TB_COMPLIANCE_ORDER_8_17_12.pdf