North Dakota’s state engineer has signed off on a final order approving a water permit for an oil refinery being developed near Theodore Roosevelt National Park.
State Engineer Garland Erbele affirmed previous recommendations to issue the water permit to Meridian Energy Group for the Davis Refinery, which has drawn opposition from conservation groups and some nearby landowners.
The order dated Thursday permits Meridian to withdraw 586 acre feet of water per year at a rate of 400 gallons per minute. That’s the equivalent of more than 190 million gallons per year.
Meridian has said it plans to use water from a brine formation about 5,000 feet below ground and treat it for use in the refinery near Belfield.
Area landowners challenged the permit, arguing the company had presented vague and conflicting information about its plans for the water.
Administrative Law Judge Tim Dawson held a hearing last November on the water permit and recommended in January that state officials issue the water permit.
Meridian Energy Group issued a statement Friday that praised the final decision of the state engineer.
“Meridian believes that this outcome yet again demonstrates the careful preparation that has gone into the engineering and permitting of the Davis Refinery,” the company said.
JJ England, the attorney who represented landowners who live near the refinery site, said his clients are “very disappointed” that Erbele granted the permit without independently verifying Meridian’s plans.
“The bottom line is that Meridian said one thing to Billings County, and something very different to the state engineer,” England said.
Jon Patch, director of water appropriations for the State Water Commission, said the deadline to appeal the decision is March 4.
England said his clients are reviewing “all available options.”