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PSC dismisses complaint concerning proposed Belfield refinery

Dave Thompson
Prairie Public

The Public Service Commission has dismissed a complaint filed against an oil refinery project planned for Belfield.

The complaint was filed by environmental groups and individuals concerned about how close the proposed Davis Refinery would be to the Theodore Roosevelt National Park.

The PSC accepted the ruling of an administrative law judge

Meridian Energy proposes a refinery that would process 49,500 barrels of oil every day. But state law says the PSC does not get involved in siting refineries unless it would process over 50,000 barrels a day.

"This is a close call," said Commissioner Julie Fedorchak. "It's a tough call."

Fedorchak made the motion to dismiss the complaint.

"All the indications suggest that the company is developing plans to avoid the additional regulatory scrutiny," Fedorchak said. "The CEO, Bill Prentice, said as much at a meeting with us last fall. But the PSC is a regulatory body, and we must have subject matter jurisdiction, derived from the Constitution and the law."

"Our responsibility is not to rewrite the laws as we wish they were," said PSC Chairman Randy Christmann. "The task is to make decisions within the boundaries of our statutory authority."

Christmann and Fedorchak said they think the 2019 Legislature will be asked to re-evaluate the siting law.

The refinery has received an air quality permit, as well as zoning okays. It still awaits a water permit.