Wednesday, August 22, 2018

Shale Law in the Spotlight: Environmental Groups Challenge North Dakota Department of Health’s Grant of Permit to Construct Oil Refinery Near Theodore Roosevelt National Park


Written by Chloe Marie – Research Fellow

On June 12, 2018, the North Dakota Department of Health granted an Air Pollution Control Permit to Construct (PTC) to Meridian Energy Group, Inc., for the construction of a proposed oil refinery. Thirty days later, on July 12, 2018, three environmental groups, including the National Parks Conservation Association, the Environmental Law and Policy Center, and the Dakota Resource Council, appealed the grant of this permit to the North Dakota District Court, Southwest Judicial District.

The proposed Davis Refinery would be located near the Theodore Roosevelt National Park in Belfield, North Dakota, and it would have a processing capacity of 49,500 barrels of Bakken crude oil per day. According to the Notice of Appeal, the Davis Refinery “would be the first significant new oil refinery built in the United States in over forty years.” Construction of the refinery started on July 18, 2018.

Appellants argue that the state Department of Health erred in classifying the Davis Refinery as a minor stationary source of air pollution rather than a major one. As such, appellants claim that the PTC does not meet the requirements of the Clean Air Act and North Dakota’s implementation of the Clean Air Act. Interestingly, in a Press Release dated June 13, 2018, and posted on the Davis Refinery website, it is mentioned that “this marks the first time that a full-conversion refinery of this size and complexity has been reviewed and approved as a Synthetic Minor Source.”  

Appellants point out that a stationary source is considered major if it has the potential to emit air pollutants above certain levels determined by the Prevention of Significant Deterioration (PSD) and National Emission Standards for Hazardous Air Pollutants (NESHAPs) programs. According to them, the Davis Refinery would emit hazardous air pollutants beyond major source levels. Appellants also emphasize the fact that the Theodore Roosevelt National Park is designated as a federal Class 1 area, which means that it has the highest level of air quality protection.

In addition, appellants declare that “the predicted ‘potential to emit’ of VOCs in the permit is underestimated and unenforceable, both because the limits are not achievable in practice and because testing and monitoring is insufficient to ensure that the Davis Refinery will comply with these limits.” Consequently, appellants seek to reverse the state Department of Health’s decision to issue a PTC and remand the case to the Department of Health for further review. 

Prior to filing the above appeal, the Environmental Law and Policy Center and the North Dakota Resource Council filed another complaint dated June 29, 2018, against Meridian Energy Group Inc., requesting the North Dakota Public Service Commission (PSC) to conduct a study of the Davis Refinery’s location. That complaint states that “site review by the PSC is crucial to the protection of the public interest,” especially as plaintiffs suspect that Meridian would divide the Davis Refinery construction project into pieces to avoid further planning and siting review. 

Both cases are still pending. Stay tuned for further legal developments!

 

This material is based upon work supported by the National Agricultural Library, Agricultural Research Service, U.S. Department of Agriculture.
 

1 comment:

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