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Tomlin Energy, LLC and 5 protestants for the Kiamichi River went to Oklahoma City (OKC) to present our cases regarding Tomlin Energy, LLC permit # 2019-0023.
The Honorable Joseph Ashbaker Hearing Examiner for the Oklahoma Water Resources Board (OWRB), heard testimony from protestants.
Each party came to defend their cases for or against Tomlin Energy, LLC application for a “term” permit for stream water from the Kiamichi River.
The permit seeks 33,000 acre feet of “run-off or overflow” water yearly from the Kiamichi River north of Clayton. The final ruling will be determined by the OWRB, but Ashbaker will present his overview to help the OWRB grant or deny the permit according to the testimonies heard during the hearing.
Tomlin Energy, LLC is seeking a “term” permit (temporary/50 years) for water to build a closed-loop pump storage facility along the Kiamichi River. Three large ponds would be built, all three ponds requiring a total of 33,000 acre feet in the first year to fill them, but may not need the full amount the following years according to Dan Tomlin Jr., representative of Tomlin Energy, LLC.
The five protestants present were Larinda McClellan, William (Bill) Redman representing the Louise Redman Trust and the Kiamichi River Legacy Alliance (KRLA), Lauren Haygood, Debbie Leo and Donnie and LaConia Corbin, each representing themselves and their use of stream water from the Kiamichi River.
Opening statements were made by those who chose to do so. Attorneys for the protestants, the attorney for Tomlin Energy, LLC and myself, each speaking about our reasons why we defend our stances on this permit.
Dan Tomlin, Jr., spokesperson for Tomlin Energy, LLC, developer in and around the Dallas/Fort Worth area, was first to testify on the project and water application permit.
He and his group have received a permit to pursue building this project from the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC).
“The cart before the horse,” this request for a water permit, first before any scientific studies or engineering facts and figures.
The FERC permitting process relies on scientific data, specifically any and all scientific studies be completed before this project can begin, but after the water rights have been procured. The Tomlin group will have a year to complete all the studies required should they receive their stream water permit.
FERC studies must include environmental impacts to the region, geological factors and all impacts that could contribute negatively to downstream users, stability of the soils at the building sites, the dams, how they will be built and reinforced, any earthquake data, pond chemistry and any impacts from overflow from ponds into the Kiamichi River.
In other words, all environmental impacts which will have potentially negative impacts to the Kiamichi River and basin.
In my humble opinion, any and all aspects of possible contamination to fish and wildlife, engineering data and structures, should have been done before approving or denying any stream water permitting, allowing for transparency and pertinent information to be sure this project will be safe to the Kiamichi River watershed while being profitable for the region.
Unfortunately, that is not the way the system works. This permit will have consequences to the health and safety of the Kiamichi River ecosystem. If FERC is thorough in seeking all the scientific data that must be provided by the Tomlin group, this project may be denied.
The water permit #2019-0023 could be granted to Tomlin Energy, LLC before the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission studies have even begun.
During Tomlin’s testimony, he spoke of the projects qualities to Pushmataha County and to Oklahoma, enhancing our power grid. Prior to his statement before the Hearing Examiner, this project was anticipated to go to Texas and enhance their power grid.
Now, it is meant for Oklahoma, a change for the better for Oklahoma, but a suspicious reversal to their original permit application. Tomlin Energy has promised Pushmataha County money from taxes from this project going directly to Pushmataha County for schools and other fiscal needs each year for the next 50 years. Can we count on them to do what they say?
Tomlin’s cross examination by the attorneys for the protestants, it was apparent that Tomlin was either feigning ignorance as to his projects’ specifications or he clearly didn’t know what the specifications were after working on this project for 10 years, as he stated before the court.
Pertinent information regarding this project and all the specifications that would inform us of the scale of this project along with engineering information should have been provided by him, but were clearly missing in his testimony.
The Oklahoma Water Resources Board will have little to go on except the amount of water available for this permit and the testimonies of the protestants. Assumptions without reliable, up-to-date scientific proof.
We heard from the OWRB hydrologist, Jason Tutkowski. He presented his data based on the OWRB hydro-logical model from 1980, clearly out-of-date. His testimony stated that the required “overflow or run-off” water is available for a “term” permit and would not harm any downstream users rights to stream water from the Kiamichi River.
The protestants dispute those findings, but we cannot prove it at this time. Hiring an expert witness is very expensive.
Tomlin Energy, LLC did hire an expert witness, Dr. Reely, a professional civil engineer and geologist. He testified that there was water available, the project had merits for the county, however, he could not speak to facts of future designs, technologies to be used or soils conditions that are important to this project.
In all aspects of Dr. Reely’s testimony, he could not speak to the true merits of this project. The Tomlin group had either not provided facts to him about this project, told him they had hired an engineering firm or were allowing assumptions about this project to continue to obscure the facts of this project.
I realized throughout the hearing, assumptions were rampant and the only thing each of us could rely on without given reliable facts on this project. We each, then, presented our own assumptions.
At the end of a long day in court, the assumptions taken from the hearing were troubling. Requiring transparency will be something we all must require for our future and any project coming forth for our Kiamichi River stream water.
Next week, testimonies of the protestants will be published to help you determine if this project is good for Pushmataha County. Our senators and representatives believe that this industry will solve our monetary hardships in Pushmataha County, but I ask you, is the quantity and quality of our water a more important issue than any money that might befall the county?
Stay tuned for more information on this court hearing. What you read may help you determine how you feel about the Kiamichi River and our future journey forward.