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Refinery Near National Park Poses Many Hazards, Groups Say

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A proposed oil refinery would be located within three miles of Theodore Roosevelt National Park. (Matt Zimmerman/Flickr)
A proposed oil refinery would be located within three miles of Theodore Roosevelt National Park. (Matt Zimmerman/Flickr)
December 29, 2017

BELFIELD, N.D. – Opposition from local communities is growing against a proposed oil refinery near Theodore Roosevelt National Park.

The Davis Refinery, from California-based Meridian Energy Group, is awaiting air quality and water permits to start construction of its facility near Belfield. Groups such as the Badlands Area Resource Council (BARC), an affiliate of the Dakota Resource Council, say it will hurt their community members in the backyard of this refinery.

Laura Grzanic, a member of BARC, lives a mile from the proposed site.

"The heavy traffic, in combination with other projects going on, is going to create a lot of traffic hazards," she says. "The area does not have any traffic lights, traffic signs, turning lanes. It's just going to be rather hectic for the locals to commute back and forth to work."

Grzanic has a water well for livestock and is concerned the refinery could impact the aquifer she draws from. The head of Meridian says it aims to build the "cleanest refinery in the world," although conservation groups are skeptical of this claim.

The public comment period on the state Department of Health's draft air pollution permit for the refinery is open through Jan. 26, 2018.

The scope of the refinery has changed several times over the past year. First proposed to process 55,000 oil barrels per day, Meridian changed the figure to 49,500 to skirt regulations from the Public Service Commission, which conducts reviews of facilities that process 50,000 barrels or more.

Commissioners have urged Meridian to submit to a review anyway, saying that without one, legal hurdles could take longer to clear. Grzanic says Meridian has increased its estimates for traffic on its permits too, from 80 trucks per day to 170.

"I'm just very skeptical of the changing of numbers," she adds. "I feel like I'm in a bait-and-switch type of game, where it was presented to the county one way and now it's being presented to the state in another way."

Groups such as the National Parks Conservation Association also say it will hurt Theodore Roosevelt National Park, North Dakota's only national park. The refinery will be within three miles of it.

Linda Weiss, a BARC member and Belfield resident, says officials should consider the long-term effects on the local landscape.

"Who gets left if things do not work out or when the life of the production is over?" she queries. "Who gets left with that? What kind of bonding do we have? Generally, North Dakotans end up having to pay some of those costs."

Eric Tegethoff, Public News Service - ND