The Court affirmed a lower court ruling upholding the refusal of the North Dakota Public Service Commission (PSC) to assert jurisdiction over the suitability of the project’s site. The Court’s decision comes on the heels of its 30 June affirmation of the issuance of the air quality Permit to Construct for the Project by the North Dakota Department of Environmental Quality in 2018, and paves the way for Meridian to complete engineering, procurement and financing for the Davis project.
Meridian obtained relevant siting entitlements through the County of Billings, having received its Rezoning and Conditional Use Permit from Billings County in July 2016, after a stringent permitting review process by the County. However, the Environmental Law and Policy Center and the Dakota Resource Council asked the PSC to conduct an additional siting review. Meridian asserted that the PSC had no jurisdiction to do so because the refinery will not be capable of operating at or above the PSC’s jurisdictional threshold of 50 000 bpd. A PSC administrative law judge and the unanimous PSC agreed with Meridian, as did the District Court (and now, the North Dakota Supreme Court).
William Prentice, Chairman and CEO of Meridian Energy Group, said of the decision: “Meridian is grateful for the Court’s decision on this matter. North Dakota will benefit immensely from modern downstream facilities like the Davis Refinery. Supporting value-added industries has always been a key objective for North Dakota. That is more important now than ever as the state looks to recover from the economic impacts of COVID-19.”
Prentice continued: “The Davis project comes at a critical time for North Dakota, when both the jobs that will be created by Davis and the market that Davis provides to Bakken oil are particularly important. The refinery will employ several hundred workers during construction, with permanent employment of up to 200 jobs. The overall impact of direct, indirect, and derived jobs in the area could be well over 2000. In addition, Davis will almost triple the tax base of Billings County, enabling badly-needed community and infrastructure development to proceed and allows North Dakota shale oil producers to have their product refined locally and avoid costly transportation to out-of-state refineries.”