North Dakota utility regulators took no action Monday on a complaint related to the Davis Refinery, but one member of the Public Service Commission indicated she doesn’t think the project falls under the agency’s jurisdiction.
Commissioner Julie Fedorchak said during a work session that she agrees with the analysis of an administrative law judge who recommended that a complaint against Meridian Energy be dismissed.
The Dakota Resource Council and the Environmental Law & Policy Center allege that Meridian is attempting to circumvent state law by not applying for a Public Service Commission permit.
Opponents of the refinery being constructed 3 miles from Theodore Roosevelt National Park have said the Public Service Commission is the only state agency that can conduct a comprehensive review of the facility.
Administrative Law Judge Patrick Ward issued a recommended decision last week concluding that the PSC does not have jurisdiction over the refinery because it will process 49,500 barrels of oil per day, 500 barrels below the threshold that triggers a PSC review.
Commissioners and PSC staff discussed the recommended decision in a work session that was open to the public.
Fedorchak said legislators who wrote the state’s siting law set thresholds that indicate when energy conversion projects require the agency’s review.
Several natural gas processing plants have been constructed as small plants below the siting threshold and later expanded, requiring the agency’s review. Fedorchak said legislators have been aware of that and not made any changes to the siting law.
“That leads me to believe that our policy-makers of this state want it this way. This project is not jurisdictional. To me, we just don’t have the siting jurisdiction,” Fedorchak said. “They could have come voluntarily. We urged them to do that. They chose not to.”
Commission Chairman Randy Christmann said he wanted to wait until a formal meeting to reach an opinion. Commissioner Brian Kroshus said he was still conducting research before making a decision.