Supporters of US national park want to block refinery

2017-05-27 21:00


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Medora - When Meridian Energy Group set out to develop "the cleanest refinery on the planet," it chose a spot in western North Dakota's oil patch near US highways, railroads and a picturesque national park named for a former president revered for his conservation advocacy.

Now the longtime former leader of Theodore Roosevelt National Park, the state's top tourist attraction drawing a record 760 000 visitors last year, is among those urging officials to deny a permit for the 283ha refinery due to pollution concerns.

"To put an oil refinery within view of the park would be a betrayal of the conservation values of the park's namesake," said retired longtime Park Superintendent Valerie Naylor, an outspoken opponent of the project. "An oil refinery has no business at the doorstep of a national park. We wouldn't allow an oil refinery to be built within view of Yellowstone or Yosemite and it should be no different for Theodore Roosevelt".

Air quality standards

Meridian, formed by a partnership with agricultural interests in North Dakota to develop the refinery, plans to push forward on the $900m project, which it says will be a model for environmentally friendly technology.

The proposed Davis Refinery would process up to 55 000 barrels of Bakken crude per day into a variety of fuels while creating 500 construction jobs and permanent jobs for 200 people in the area, and generating millions of dollars in property taxes for the county each year. Because of its proximity to the national park, it must meet more stringent air quality standards, which the company says it will achieve through the most modern emissions control technology.

"Refineries are not pleasant things. Most in this country are 40, 50 years or older. They're not the kind of thing you'd want to see in your neighbourhood, if there was a park there or not," Meridian CEO William Prentice said. "We've taken all these concerns into consideration. This will be the cleanest refinery on the planet when it's done".

National groups

Many people, including National Park Service officials, aren't so sure, and worry the refinery will add to haze from coal-fired power plants in the region and other sources such as vehicles on nearby Interstate 94.

 The project has still drawn opposition from national groups such as the National Parks Conservation Association and The Coalition to Protect America's National Parks, and questions from local residents. Linda Weiss, a longtime resident of the nearby small town of Belfield, said there are "a lot of unknowns" in the community about the refinery.

"It's going to be visible," she said. "They may put up tree barriers, but it takes a while for those to grow".

Read more on:    us  |  pollution  |  environmental affairs

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