Refinery Company: Still Blowing Smoke, Still Sleazy

Last week William Prentice, the slickster CEO of Meridian Energy, which wants to build an oil refinery 2 ½ miles from Theodore Roosevelt National Park, blew a bunch of smoke up the ass of a young reporter for The Dickinson Press, and the kid, who’s actually a pretty good writer, wrote a real puff piece about how great the refinery is going to be for western North Dakota.

Worse, the Bismarck Tribune reprinted most of it this week. Even worse, Forum Communications’ other North Dakota papers, in Fargo, Grand Forks and Jamestown, all printed the story, under the headline “Refinery near national park would bring jobs, revenue to western ND county.” You could read it here if you want to. This kind of positive publicity coup for a controversial project had old Bill Prentice drooling out of both sides of his mouth.

Prentice said taxes collected from the refinery would provide Billings County “funds to improve schools, roads and anything else. The influx of money and workers could even help return a grocery store to the town, as Belfield has lacked one for years now.”

“Everything needs a little bit of tender loving care,” Prentice said.


P.S. Belfield is in Stark County, not Billings.

Now maybe the young reporter is going to do another story sometime talking about the problems a refinery near a national park poses. If so, he might want to talk to some folks from the National Parks Conservation Association (NPCA), one of the fiercest and most stubborn opponents of the refinery’s proposed location. That’s the nonprofit organization whose only agenda is to support and seek protection for national parks all over the U.S.  Because of this severe threat to North Dakota’s national park, they’ve jumped into this battle with both feet.

To that end, NPCA commissioned an independent analysis of Meridian’s application materials for an air quality permit from the North Dakota Department of Health. In their application, Meridian claims that the proposed refinery is a “minor” source of pollution. Uh Huh.

In her analysis of the application, Dr. Phyllis Fox, an environmental and chemical engineer from Florida who has prepared air permit applications on behalf of refiners and who has reviewed and commented on hundreds of permit applications, says the refinery “is almost certainly a ‘major’ source of pollution that would release substantial amounts of carbon monoxide, volatile organic compounds and hazardous air pollutants–all harmful to human and ecological health.” Uffda.

The designation matters, Dr. Fox says, because unlike major sources of pollution, a minor source permit does not require a rigorous assessment of pollution impacts as well as the best pollution controls. A major source permit requires serious scrutiny, which Meridian wants to avoid.

Her analysis also found that Meridian significantly underestimated or omitted emissions in its application from sources including flaring events; startup, shutdown, and malfunction; and associated equipment, among other sources.

Well. That’s not surprising. As I said in an earlier post here, Meridian is one sleazy company. They’ve told outright lies to the North Dakota Public Service Commission to avoid undergoing an environmental assessment in order to get a site permit. And now we learn they’ve lied to the State Health Department as well. I asked both those agencies to comment on Dr. Fox’s report.

Craig Thorstenson, the environmental engineer for the Health Department who is responsible for these kinds of things (and who just happens to be the nephew of my Hettinger High School wrestling coach, Chuck Thorstenson, a really good coach who won the state championship and was named North Dakota High School Wrestling Coach of the Year in 1966, the year AFTER I graduated) replied “We are still reviewing the Meridian application to determine if the application is complete and if emissions from the facility will be expected to remain below the major source thresholds. It will likely be at least 2 months before we make a determination.”

Craig also told me that when the review is done, there will be a 30-day public comment period, and he said Dr. Fox’s report will be considered if she submits it to the Health Department during that time period. My guess is they will take it seriously. Bill Prentice won’t like that.

Prentice, by the way, was trying to blow smoke up Craig Thorstenson’s ass in the Dickinson Press story too. Seeking to get out ahead of Dr. Fox’s report, Prentice said “The North Dakota Department of Health is as knowledgeable, if not more knowledgeable than any other agency we’ve worked with on a complex project, including federal agencies. They are a world-class organization.”

More blowing smoke: As far as I can tell, Meridian Energy is a brand new company and this is their first project, so I’m not sure what agencies, “including federal agencies,” they’ve “worked with.” Kind of a Trumpian claim, in keeping with the times.

I do think the Health Department is doing a pretty thorough review of the application. I won’t be surprised if they agree with Dr. Fox.

Public Service Commissioner Julie Fedorchak, to whom I have no such close association as I do with Craig Thorstenson and his now deceased Uncle Chuck (although I often sit behind Julie’s brother in church—I sit in the 3rd row on the left side because I am hard of hearing and that’s the spot with the best acoustics, and I don’t want to miss Msgr. Chad Gion’s homilies, because they’re very good–and Mike and his family usually sit right in front of me) replied “Per the law, the PSC can’t require them to site the project. If they begin building without a permit then we could at that point take legal action against them if we believe they are violating the siting law. That’s the legal landscape. Our staff is working on a meeting with the company so we can speak directly with them about their plans, timeline, that site, their technology, etc., rather than through letters.”

I think Julie and her fellow PSC members are serious too. I don’t think this is a done deal yet with either of those agencies. We’ll see in a few months.

Meanwhile, don’t believe everything you read in the newspapers. If you want something to believe, read the NPCA press release, complete with a link to Dr. Fox’s thorough, 28-page report, here.

8 thoughts on “Refinery Company: Still Blowing Smoke, Still Sleazy

  1. I guess I’m not as confident in the ND PSC pulling Meridian up short if they start construction prior to studies and final approval. In early May 2016, Energy Transfer Partners was clearing the Dakota Access Pipeline’s 150′ wide right-of-way and laying pipe right above the Missouri River here in Emmons County prior to Army Corps permits on Corps Land, and prior to final approval from ND PSC. I distinctly recall Public Service Commissioner Julie Fedorchak commenting, “If ETP fails to get the final permit, they’ll just have to eat it!” Bureaucrats can say all sorts of things to appease both sides, but I’m afraid ‘money talks’ best in these situations. Imagine, three un-elected people making critical decisions for all the rest of us living in North Dakota!


  2. I agree that the refinery will be too close to the park.A few people in Bismarck are kissing ass in hopes of bringing their agenda th their own likings.I don’t trust Mr. Goering any more when I see some of his votes concerning western water he has voted on. Ie.little Missouri water for legal sale.


  3. Jim Fuglie, You have everything wrong, you sound like a little girl that is upset her best friend is friends with someone else. Get a life, if your a real ND person. You would see that the hole state our Mayor, etc…. is behind this company. I think its going to be great for our state. Do you ever say anything positive. It seems to me. After reading a lot of your writing. The only way you can get someone to read your stuff is to be negative. Get a real life.


  4. Oh my gosh!!!

    It sounds as though TigerSwan has found its way onto The Prairie Blog.


    Let the counterintelligence games begin!


  5. Jim Fuglie…nothing surprising in his rant blog…he is a rabid anti trump Democrat. He is a jealous democrat of anyone who is successful, wants to work or is free enterprise oriented. In Europe he would be termed a progressive communist. He would be seen as an ISIS supporter. Tear down anything not supporting his extremist environmental views.

    Plain n simple, he is anti-oil, anti-coal, anti-North Dakota, anti-USA.and anti-progress. His blog philosophy and writings clearly indicate an extreme socialistic pattern with facist leanings when he can’t get his ways. He is 50 years behind the times clinging to the old Bill Langer NPL-progressive socialist party. He subscribes to a “big brother” government, your face, in your bedroom and in your boardroom. This guy should run for President on the Democrat ticket..Trump would be guaranteed a second term..wouldn’t that just kill this socialist????


  6. Dumb..dunb..fuglie is uninformed idiot..why do I read his crap…to reinforce my belief that “his ignorance is his bliss” !


  7. Keep it going.

    Name calling and creating strawman profiles is always a convincer of one’s point-of-view.

    It is possible for people to work together toward productive economic security without philosophical civil war – let alone street violence. The BIG BOYs who run things love it when we are so busy whacking each other they can steal us blind without a modicum of resistance.

    We could also learn from the Creator in how to honor each other and the stewardship given to us.


  8. Jim, I finally found the time to read your latest blog. Thank you for finding informed sources and offering pertinent information. Keep up the good work. Many of us don’t believe the Straw men, and we know who they are.


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