Meridian Energy seeks dismissal of PSC complaint

BISMARCK -- Meridian Energy CEO William Prentice says the company no longer plans to build the Davis Refinery in stages, instead constructing the project in a single phase to refine 49,500 barrels of oil per day.
The site of the Davis Refinery, pictured on July 31, 2018, is southwest of Belfield, N.D.. Tom Stromme / Bismarck Tribune

BISMARCK - Meridian Energy CEO William Prentice says the company no longer plans to build the Davis Refinery in stages, instead constructing the project in a single phase to refine 49,500 barrels of oil per day.

Prentice made the statement in an affidavit filed Wednesday, Aug. 8, with the North Dakota Public Service Commission along with a motion that seeks to dismiss a complaint against the company.

The Environmental Law & Policy Center and the Dakota Resource Council allege that Meridian is attempting to circumvent state law by building the refinery in stages to avoid scrutiny of the Public Service Commission. The complaint seeks to stop construction of the refinery until the company receives a siting permit from the PSC, which regulates refineries that process 50,000 barrels of oil per day.

Previously, Prentice told the PSC the company was designing a refinery capable of processing 27,500 barrels per day, with the potential for expansion in the future. Permit applications and statements to investors have referenced a capacity of 55,000 barrels per day.

Now Prentice says in the affidavit that Meridian is finalizing engineering and design plans for a refinery that will process no more than 49,500 barrels per day.

Meridian attorney Lawrence Bender argues in documents filed with the Public Service Commission that the complaint should be dismissed because the company has no plans to expand and hit the 50,000 barrel threshold that would require the regulators' review.

Public Service Commission Chairman Randy Christmann said commissioners will consult with legal counsel to determine the next step to take regarding the complaint.

"We have to really look closely at what the law is, what our jurisdiction is and what our options are and find our way through it," Christmann said.

Refinery opponents have argued that the refinery, which would be 3 miles from Theodore Roosevelt National Park, should have a thorough siting review by the Public Service Commission.

Preliminary site construction is underway near Belfield while this complaint and two lawsuits against Meridian Energy are pending. One lawsuit challenges the North Dakota Department of Health air quality permit and the other challenges the zoning permit from Billings County.