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Second Supreme Court hearing on the Davis Refinery

Groups that oppose the proposed oil refinery to be built in Belfield say the North Dakota Public Service Commission should take a closer look at the proposed size of the refinery, to determine whether or not it meets the state’s siting law criteria.

Meridian Energy is proposing to build a refinery to handle 49,500 barrels of oil per day. That would put it under the requirement that a facility of 50,000 barrels per day or above needs to go through the full siting process. The groups are concerned that the refinery would be built too close to the Theodore Roosevelt National Park.

Attorney Scott Strand represents the Environmental Law and Policy Center, and the Dakota Resource Council. He told the state Supreme Court Meridian has made a number of contradictory statements about the size of the plant.

"Almost all of those statements and plans describe a refinery capable of refining at least 55,000 barrels per day," Strand argued. "There's a contradiction."

Strand said it raises an issue of fact, as to whether statements made by Meridian that it would be a smaller refinery are credible.

Attorney Lawrence Bender represents Meridian. He told the Court the original was a two-phase plan, with each phase allowing for production of 27,500 barrels. Bender said when that plan was presented to the Department of Environmental Quality for an air permit, it was DEQ that suggested Meridian apply once instead of twice, and use the 55,000 barrel figure.

"There was never, ever, to my knowledge a situation where Meridian indicated, 'We're going to build a plant at the outset of 55,000 barrels -- 27, 500 in Phase One, 27,500 in phase two,'" Bender told the Court. "Then they went back and said, 'We don't want to do two phases, we will do one, and that phase will be 49,500. That's where we are today."

The Supreme Court has taken the case under advisement. It is still working on another case, where opponents appealed that air quality permit. That hearing was held last week.

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