BISMARCK, N.D. (AP) — North Dakota’s Health Department did not improperly discount its own concerns about pollution from a proposed oil refinery near Theodore Roosevelt National Park when it permitted the project earlier this year, attorneys for the agency and for the developer argue.

The department and Meridian Energy Group are asking a state judge to reject a challenge by environmental groups to an air quality permit that allowed the company to begin construction during the summer at the Davis Refinery site about 3 miles (5 kilometers) from the state’s top tourist attraction.

The department’s decision to issue the permit in June essentially concluded that the refinery will be a minor source of pollution and won’t negatively impact the park. Assistant Attorney General Margaret Olson in court documents filed Nov. 5 said the decision “was not made in haste,” but after a two-year review that involved more than 1,000 hours of department staff time and more than 10,000 comments from the public.

“Because of the public interest in the Davis Refinery and its proximity to Theodore Roosevelt National Park, the department conducted a more in-depth review than typically required,” she wrote.

Meridian maintains the Davis Refinery will be built with modern technology and will be the “the cleanest refinery on the planet.” The company began site work in July. The state maintains its review process was more than adequate, and it also says Meridian provided information that eased initial concerns about refinery pollution. Once built, the plant will need to prove it can meet state and federal air quality standards, and compliance will be continually monitored.

Olson and Meridian attorney Lawrence Bender both asked Greenwood to uphold the state’s permit decision. The judge has scheduled a Dec. 12 hearing in Dickinson.


Courtesy of the AP