DICKINSON — Opponents of a refinery proposed near Theodore Roosevelt National Park objected Wednesday to the location of the project and urged state regulators to deny a permit for Meridian Energy Group.
More than 230 people gathered Wednesday night in Dickinson to attend a public meeting hosted by the North Dakota Department of Health and provide comment on a draft air quality permit.
A Division of Air Quality review found the Davis Refinery is expected to comply with federal and state air pollution rules and regulations.
Meridian filed for a synthetic minor source permit, meaning the facility would emit less than 100 tons annually of pollutants, such as sulfur, nitrous oxide, methane and carbon monoxide, and less than a combined 25 tons annually of hazardous air pollutants, including benzene, cyanide, arsenic and mercury.
Most who spoke during the nearly four-hour hearing objected to the project, raising concerns about impacts to air quality to the national park and expressing skepticism that the company will live up to its promises with Davis Refinery.
Opponents also raised concerns about the company changing what it says about the capacity of the refinery and not going through a more comprehensive review through the Public Service Commission.
“I think what they’re doing is really a nasty, insulting trick to the people of North Dakota,” said Marie Hoff of Bismarck, a member of the Dakota Resource Council.
Meanwhile, supporters of the Davis Refinery proposed near Belfield expressed equally strong views, advocating for the economic development it would bring.
“The dream of many small communities is that a business or businesses will come in hopes of keeping their rural community alive,” said Natalie Muruato, Belfield city auditor, whose comments prompted applause from the audience.
The health department review was more extensive for the Davis Refinery because of the interest and sensitivity of the project’s location, said Rheanna Kautzman of the Division of Air Quality.
Meridian Energy is proposing additional technology to reduce emissions beyond what regulations require, Kautzman said.
Scott Olin of Dickinson, a supporter of the project, said he applauds Meridian for being proactive to protect the environment and he doesn’t believe it will degrade the air quality.
“I don’t think you can compare this refinery to any existing refinery that’s ever been built,” Olin said.
The health department has been working with the National Park Service and the Environmental Protection Agency as it develops the permit.
Theodore Roosevelt National Park Superintendent Wendy Ross said the National Park Service is doing its own air quality analysis and will submit written comments.
Supporters of the project said they have confidence in state health regulators, while opponents raised concerns about how well regulators will monitor the refinery and enforce the permit requirements.
“We will be watching to see to it that these promises that they made to you are kept,” said Eric Thompson of Bismarck.
The department is accepting public comment through Jan. 26. Comments can be submitted to AirQuality@nd.gov.
(Reach Amy Dalrymple at 701-250-8267 or Amy.Dalrymple@bismarcktribune.com)