DAVIS REFINERY

The site of the Davis Refinery, southwest of Belfield, was posted with a sign as shown on July 31. 

Environmental groups that are challenging an oil refinery under construction near Theodore Roosevelt National Park are seeking a court to reverse a recent decision by North Dakota regulators.

The Dakota Resource Council and the Environmental Law & Policy Center have filed an appeal of the decision by the North Dakota Public Service Commission to dismiss their complaint against Meridian Energy.

The groups allege that Meridian Energy is trying to circumvent state law by not applying for a Public Service Commission permit for the Davis Refinery.

Commissioners unanimously dismissed the complaint during an Oct. 10 meeting after receiving a recommendation from an administrative law judge.

Commissioners said they don’t have jurisdiction over the project because Meridian Energy has said it has no plans to expand beyond a capacity of 49,500 barrels of oil per day. By law, the commission reviews refineries that process 50,000 barrels or more per day.

In a notice of appeal filed Friday in Burleigh County District Court, the environmental groups argue that the Public Service Commission failed to provide the groups a fair hearing as required by the Administrative Agencies Practice Act.

The appeal seeks to reverse the dismissal of the complaint and remand the case back to the commission for further proceedings.

In addition to a hearing, the groups are seeking evidence from Meridian about the planned capacity of the refinery, which will be less than 3 miles from the national park boundary.

The groups point to public statements Meridian Energy made about constructing a refinery to process 55,000 barrels per day and allege the company changed its story to 49,500 barrels to avoid regulatory scrutiny.

Meridian has begun excavation and earthwork at the refinery site near Belfield. Company CEO William Prentice said in an affidavit the company has no plans to expand beyond 49,500 barrels per day.

Public Service Commission Chairman Randy Christmann said Monday he was aware of the appeal but hadn’t had a chance to read it.

“I fully intend to defend the position the commission took. It was the right one,” Christmann said. “This facility that’s being proposed does not fall under our jurisdiction.”

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(Reach Amy Dalrymple at 701-250-8267 or Amy.Dalrymple@bismarcktribune.com)

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