County wants more details on oil refinery proposed near park

The Associated Press

Billings County leaders want more information before deciding whether to approve a proposed oil refinery about 3 miles from Theodore Roosevelt National Park in western North Dakota.

 

MEDORA, N.D. (AP) — Billings County leaders want more information before deciding whether to approve a proposed oil refinery about 3 miles from Theodore Roosevelt National Park in western North Dakota.

The county's planning and zoning board last month recommended approval of the $850 million plant, but the County Commission on Tuesday delayed taking action. Houston-based Meridian Energy Group Inc. needs to first firm up plans for issues such as infrastructure work, water sourcing and emergency planning, commissioners said.

Commissioner Joe Kessel said if the company provides satisfactory answers, "there will be no problem."

Project manager Dan Hedrington said he expects Meridian to be back before the commission in June.

"We're comfortable with this (request). We're good to go," he said.

Meridian is planning a 55,000-barrel-per-day refinery between Fryburg and Belfield. The state Health Department has said the plant will have to meet more stringent air quality standards because of its proximity to the national park.

Meridian plans to file an air quality permit application with the state in June or July. The National Park Service and the federal Environmental Protection Agency have the right to weigh in on the decision, which could take a year or longer. However, the company could proceed with site work immediately if it gets the county's blessing.

The project has supporters who believe it will boost the area economy and opponents who worry about its impact on the park.

"We are not opposed to a refinery," retired park superintendent Valerie Naylor said. "We are certainly opposed to that location."

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