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Page 4 n Thursday, June 14, 2012 Coal mine

zoning affi rmed N.D. Supreme Court backs Stark County Commission decision

By DALE WETZEL Associated Press

acted properly when it approved land- use changes to allow development of a new coal mine, gasifi cation factory and electric power plant in southwest- ern North Dakota, the state Supreme Court ruled June 7. The Dakota Resource Council, an

The Stark County Commission

The Dakota Resource Council argued that during that process, Great North- ern should have provided the detailed information that it must supply to get a land disturbance permit. Derrick Braaten, an attorney for

environmental group based in Dickin- son, and several neighboring landown- ers said the com- mission granted the changes with- out demanding more informa- tion, including the project’s sug- gested coal haul- ing routes, water drainage maps and land recla- mation plans. The Supreme Court rejected those

the Dakota Resource Council, said the distinction was important because the Stark County Commission will not be required to hold public hearings on the land disturbance permit application. Information about Great North-



API: N.D. a model for oil development

By NICK SMITH Bismarck Tribune

North Dakota has found the right

regulatory balance in managing the en- ergy industry and can be used as a model for other states. That was what American Petroleum

Institute President and CEO Jack Gerard said he’s learned late-May during his vis- it to North Dakota. Gerard spoke to the Tribune on May 23 before giving a key- note speech at the 20th Williston Basin Petroleum Conference in Bismarck.

ern’s mining and land reclamation plans would have been useful for affected property owners to exam- ine during the zoning process, which did require a public hearing, Braaten said June 7.

arguments in a unanimous opinion June 7. Its opinion, written by Justice Mary Muehlen Maring, said the mine developer will have to provide the data later, when it applies for a “land distur- bance permit” that it will need to begin digging coal. Great Northern Project Develop-

vice president for project development, said the company hoped to get its coal mining siting permit from the Public Service Commission by year’s end. He said the scope of the project was

ment LP, a Houston company that controls vast coal reserves in south- western North Dakota, wants to con- struct a coal mine and processing fa- cilities on more than 8,000 acres near South Heart, a community about 12 miles west of Dickinson. Great Northern’s coal mining plan,

which was fi led by a subsidiary, South Heart Coal LLC, is pending before the state Public Service Commission. The Dakota Resource Council and another environmental group, the Dacotah chapter of the Sierra Club, are suing the commission’s three members, say- ing they illegally accepted campaign contributions from a project devel- oper. The Stark County Commission has

a Great Northern

“North Dakota is a model that leads the way. I think they’ve struck a good

balance.” – American Petroleum Institute president and CEO, Jack Gerard

“North Dakota is a model that leads Richard Voss,

the way. I think they’ve struck a good balance,” Gerard said. “The model here is to not stop the economic activity but (to) appropriately regulate it.” Gerard said the state’s regulations on

fl exible. Construction of coal gasifi ca- tion and electric power plants and a chemical fertilizer factory “is not cast in stone, but that’s what we’re shoot- ing for, is to develop it to that extent,” Voss said. “A lot of it will depend, of course,

on the economy, the fi nal customers and so forth,” Voss said June 7. “The markets and the technologies, as they evolve, will really dictate what the products will be.” Braaten said the Stark County

Commission could hold public hear- ings on the land disturbance permit even though the county’s rules do not require the commission to do so. “When (Great Northern) goes

already approved zoning and land-use changes that would allow the project.

back, there’s a lot of information that they need to submit here, and it’s going to be through a process that does not require them to allow the community to be involved,” Braaten said. “I think that community involvement is really important.”

the industry are strong. He said they also provide fl exibility that doesn’t deter com- panies from tapping the vast resources of the Bakken. “The potential is great. This resource

in North Dakota, as you know, is huge,” Gerard said. Gerard arrived in North Dakota on

May 21. Since then, he had met with a number of industry and government of- fi cials. He also toured several facilities in the Tioga area, as well as a man camp that is housing oil workers. “We spent some time in the epicenter

of what is going on,” Gerard said. He said North Dakota is an example

of what can happen with additional do- mestic energy production. Gerard said using improved technologies to tap into the Bakken has led to the state having the lowest unemployment rate in the na- tion. He said its growing energy industry has also led to rising wages and its new- found status as the No. 2 oil-producing state in the nation. The week before the conference,

North Dakota surpassed Alaska for the No. 2 spot, trailing only Texas. North Da- kota produced 17.8 million barrels of oil

in March, the most recent number avail- able. March production averages out to 575,490 barrels per day. “Some estimates there see a potential

for 1 million, that’s pushing Texas pro- portions,” Gerard said. Texas produced about 1.1 million

barrels in February, the most recent Tex- as data available. Gerard said there are certainly serious

infrastructure needs in western North Dakota. He said addressing housing, roads and other community infrastruc- ture is important. Gerard said it appears to him that offi cials are doing what they can by allocating additional funds to ad- dress needs out West. Fixing the region’s infrastructure will

take time, Gerard said. He said addition- al pipelines such as the proposed Key- stone XL pipeline would go a long way in reducing road impacts long term. He said such projects are critical to increase pipeline capacity and more effectively get product to market. “There’s obviously very strong sup-

port in North Dakota as to the Keystone XL pipeline,” Gerard said. The proposed Keystone XL pipeline

has been under review for approximate- ly three years. President Barack Obama rejected the pipeline in January. The de- cision has drawn sharp criticism from congressional Republicans and from of- fi cials including Gerard. If approved, the 1,700-mile pipeline

would stretch from the Canadian prov- ince of Alberta to the Gulf Coast. The pipeline has a total capacity of 830,000 barrels of oil per day. Of this, a total of 100,000 barrels of oil per day is supposed to be dedicated to Bakken crude. The majority of the oil traveling

through the pipeline would be Canadian oil from the Athabasca Oil Sands in Al- berta. In March, Obama approved the south-

ern leg of the pipeline, which stretches from Oklahoma to the Gulf Coast. Ge- rard said he’s hopeful that Obama will approve the remaining portion of the project before the November election. Gerard said if the United States is to

continue increasing its domestic energy production, North Dakota’s regulatory model can be held up as an example. “We can have more North Dakotas.

We can have more opportunities if we have the political will,” Gerard said. (Reach Nick Smith at 701-250-8255 or at

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