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Refinery zoning OK’d near national park
The possibility of a crude oil-to-gasoline refinery near Theodore Roosevelt National Park took a major step forward Wednesday as the Billings County Commission approved zoning for the location.

The unanimous thumbs-up by the three-man board came after four hours of technical presentations and public testimony, fractured along the line of local control versus preservation of the National Park’s ambience.

People who favor it like the 200 good-paying jobs, the $2.7 million in annual property taxes and not being controlled by what they consider outside interest groups. Those who oppose feel it could lead to an industrial complex so huge that the park will be compromised.

Meridian Energy Group wants to build the $900 million, 55,000-barrel-per-day refinery as soon as possible, with groundbreaking this year; but zoning approval is only one of several critical elements that must fall in the company’s favor.

Surprising news was the company’s revelation that it plans to go after a synthetic minor source air quality permit from the state Health Department. That means it believes it can build the refinery with enough pollution control equipment to prevent it from being in the major source pollution category.

Edward Martinez, president of Zia Engineering and Environmental —Meridian’s design contractor— said comparing legacy refineries with this one is like comparing a 1960s Chevy truck with one built today: “It’s not the same piece of equipment, and it’s not the same type of plant.”

A major pollution source so close to the park’s Class I air quality standard under the Clean Air Act would have been a difficult, given how tight the allowable pollution increments are; and it’s likely the company recognized such a plan would have been dead on arrival.

“With this synthetic minor source, they would have major controls on it and these lower emissions would be easier to comply with. If they were a major source that close to the park, I don’t think they would get (a permit),” said David Glatt, the Health Department’s environmental chief. “The more effective the controls, the better their chance.”

The national park and the Lostwood National Wildlife Refuge have Class I air standards; in North Dakota, all other air falls into the Class II standard.

The air quality permit application, to be submitted late this summer, will require months of review and be open to public comment.

Don Shepherd, who manages air quality issues for the National Park Service, said he was surprised by the company’s change of direction to a minor source and by its low projections for some key pollutants. He said the park service will conduct its own air pollution modeling and could declare the refinery permit would create an adverse impact, which would set off its own administrative process.

Martinez said one design aspect that’s still not decided is whether the refinery’s water will be wet-cooled with a visible plume, or dry-cooled with no plume.

When the commission invited public comment, people spoke for and against the refinery for more than an hour. At least two lamented that the company’s choice of location near the park was driving a wedge into public opinion and community relations.
Belfield Public School Superintendent Wade Northrop said the refinery is needed in the area.

About Meridian

The Mission of Meridian Energy Group, Inc. is to provide long-term shareholder value through the development and operation of the cleanest, most efficient and environmentally compliant crude oil refineries in the world, benefiting the community and its investors. Established in 2013, Meridian is led by energy industry experts with a combined 50 years of world-class expertise in energy & hydrocarbon processing, project development, finance, and large capital project management. Meridian Energy Group, Inc. headquarters is located in Irvine, CA.

Origine : Communiqué Meridian Energy

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