New Oil Refinery Near Theodore Roosevelt National Park? Not if These Groups Can Help it
The State of North Dakota has been taken to court for granting an air permit for the construction of an oil refinery near the Theodore Roosevelt National Park. The air permit was issued by the North Dakota Department of Health to the Meridian Energy Group which plans to construct the first industrial-sized refinery in 40 years, called the Davis Refinery.
The plaintiffs are the National Parks Conservation Association, Environmental Law & Policy Center (ELPC) and the Dakota Resource Council. The plaintiffs oppose North Dakota’s classification of the new refinery as a potential “minor” source of pollution rather than a “major” source. They also argue the permits granted to Meridian do not provide sufficient safeguards that pollution will be kept to minimum levels.
Polluting Oil Refinery Betrays the Conservation Values of Park
Stephanie Kodish, Clean Air Program Director for National Parks Conservation Association (NPCA), disclosed that the proposed refinery would produce several thousands of oil barrels per day without an acceptable safeguard in place to contain resultant pollutions.
“We must protect the air quality in the national park, which visitors and surrounding community members breathe, and on which the stunning views and fragile ecosystems depend,” said Kodish. “This polluting oil refinery betrays the conservation values of the park’s namesake.”
Oil refineries, according to Scott Strand, Senior Attorney at ELPC, can become major environmental polluters in no time. He said Meridian Energy cannot be trusted to keep air pollution levels at the barest minimum for residents around the park and for visitors to the park.
“We have to get this right. Oil refineries can be enormous polluters, and we are not confident this permit will keep air pollution levels low enough to keep the air clean in the Park and the surrounding area,” said Strand. “The Department of Health is just taking the company’s promises as verifiable facts, and we believe that does not comply with the requirements of the law.”
Over 700,000 Tourists Spent More Than $47 Million at the Park In 2017
Laura Grzanic, a member of the Dakota Resource Council, stated that the idea of having an oil refinery near a residential area and close to a national park “is not pleasant.”
She lamented that it was a mistake for the North Dakota Department of Health to rely on the “in-house research of an unknown company, formed to construct and operate a permanent industrial facility.” She called on the Department of Health to test for benzene among other hazardous pollutants emitted by the company and its effects on park visitors and nearby residents.
“The NDDH should reexamine whether or not the emission numbers submitted by Meridian are realistic and also add measures to be certain that the proposed refinery is in compliance with the permit,” Grzanic said.
More than 700,000 tourists visited the Theodore Roosevelt National Park in 2017, and spent over $47 million in nearby communities, an expenditure that supported over 550 local jobs, the NPCA revealed.