- Associated Press - Friday, February 19, 2016

RUGBY, N.D. (AP) - Pierce County planners are recommending that county leaders consider permanently banning deep bore hole drilling, to stop a federal project that some residents fear is a step toward burying nuclear waste in the area.

University of North Dakota researchers are part of an $80 million federal Energy Department project to determine whether deep rock is suitable for nuclear waste disposal. Researchers want to drill test holes 3 miles into the ground on 20 acres of state-owned land near Rugby.

Researchers and federal officials have repeatedly said that no actual nuclear waste would be buried and that the test holes would eventually be plugged, but many residents are skeptical. County commissioners earlier placed a moratorium on deep bore hole drilling in the county while they decide whether to give their blessing to the project.

Project opponents on Thursday submitted petitions to the county with more than 2,000 signatures in support of a permanent drilling ban, KXMC-TV reported (https://bit.ly/1QowssP ).

“We don’t have to wait for the state because the rights of this county should never be questioned again,” Dallas Hager told the county’s Planning and Zoning Commission. “We strongly encourage you to change the moratorium from temporary to permanent.”

The planning commission unanimously voted to have the county state’s attorney develop language for a permanent ban. The full County Commission will make the final decision, likely when it meets next month.

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Information from: KXMC-TV, https://www.kxnet.com

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