Schweigert, Klemin & McBride, P.C.

Judge rules state should not interfere with oil refinery

North Dakota Judge Patrick Ward ruled the state should not be allowed to interfere with the construction of an oil refinery near Theodore Roosevelt National Park in Medora, North Dakota. This could clear the way for the $800 million project to move forward.

The size of the refinery caused conflict

The dispute came to head over the size of the proposed oil refinery. The Health Department issued a permit that would allow Meridian Energy Group to construct an oil refinery with a capacity of 55,000 barrels per day (bpd). North Dakota state law requires any oil refinery with a 50,000-bpd capacity get a site permit.

To obtain a permit, the company must go through public hearings to be approved. The process can take months or more.

When Meridian first announced construction, it said the refinery would have a 55,000-bpd capacity. The energy company later lowered the number to 49,500.

Environmental groups believe Meridian will build a bigger refinery

The Environmental Law and Policy Center and Dakota Resource Council stated they think the project might be bigger than what Meridian is now saying. The environmental groups filed a complaint with the Public Service Commission (PSC) and requested a more thorough investigation of the company’s plans for the refinery.

Judge said the permit does not affect the company’s plans

Judge Ward’s decision stated that just because Meridian has a permit to build a larger refinery does not mean the company will do so. The judge also recommended the PSC dismiss the environmental groups’ complaint and not move forward with an investigation.

One member of the PSC committee said she plans to listen to the judge’s advice, while the other members have not stated their positions.

The oil refinery faces other potential hurdles

Meridian began construction on the site this summer and hopes to have it operating by 2020. Supporters of the refinery believe it will have a positive impact on the area economy. Those opposed believe it could harm the park through air pollution and potential oil spill accidents

Even if the refinery clears this hurdle, Meridian will still need to apply for water and wastewater permits. It is also facing legal challenges for an air quality permit.

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