Opponents of Meridian’s Davis Refinery Are Misleading the Public

Adam Williams, communications specialist for Meridian Energy Group, scans the horizon in his company's demonstration to show its refinery process stack would not be visible from the highest point in Theodore Roosevelt National Park. Park ranger Ian Connors is in the background. Photo by Lauren Donovan/ Bismarck Tribune

An opposition group has formed aimed at blocking the construction of the Davis Refinery in western North Dakota.

The refinery would be near the Theodore Roosevelt National Park, though “near” is an imprecise term. To hear the activists against the refinery tell it, including a former head of the park, the refinery would be almost right on top of the park and visible from within it.

This from the Associated Press last week (emphasis mine):

MEDORA, N.D. (AP) — When Meridian Energy Group set out to develop “the cleanest refinery on the planet,” it chose a spot in western North Dakota’s oil patch near highways, railroads and a picturesque national park named for a former president revered for his conservation advocacy.

Now the longtime former leader of Theodore Roosevelt National Park, the state’s top tourist attraction drawing a record 760,000 visitors last year, is among those urging officials to deny a permit for the 700-acre refinery due to pollution concerns.

“To put an oil refinery within view of the park would be a betrayal of the conservation values of the park’s namesake,” said retired longtime Park Superintendent Valerie Naylor, an outspoken opponent of the project. “An oil refinery has no business at the doorstep of a national park. We wouldn’t allow an oil refinery to be built within view of Yellowstone or Yosemite, and it should be no different for Theodore Roosevelt.”

The bolded comments from Naylor are the problem. Because they’re demonstrably untrue. For one thing, the refinery would not be “at the doorstep” of the park. It would be miles away. What’s more, the refinery is not “within view” of the park.

We know this because the folks at Meridian, the company trying to build the facility, actually tested the view shed. Less than a year ago they flew an 11 foot kite 150 feet in the air at the site where the refinery would be constructed. They then climbed to the top of Buck Hill, the highest elevation viewpoint in the park, to see what was visible.

“The bright-red kite wasn’t visible, even with binoculars,” the Bismarck Tribune reported.

For reference, here’s a map showing the site of the refinery relative to the park and Buck Hill (click for a larger view):

I’m not saying that this obviates concerns over the refinery, but it does call into question the credibility of the opponents. They’re starting off their campaign against the refinery with claims that aren’t true.

Naylor says the refinery would be “on the doorstep” of the park, but that’s not true. It would be miles away.

Naylor says the refinery would be “within view” of the park, but that’s also not true. A huge kite flown 150 feet in the air at the proposed site of the refinery couldn’t be seen with binoculars from the highest point in the park.

It would be nice if the press didn’t regurgitate these sort of claims without fact checking them first.

Rob Port is the editor of SayAnythingBlog.com, a columnist for the Forum News Service, and host of the Plain Talk Podcast which you can subscribe to by clicking here.

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