MINOT, N.D. — The fight over the Davis Refinery, a crude oil project backed by Meridian Energy Group, has been an intriguing one to follow.
In many ways it is a familiar story, pitting the energy industry and its desire for modern infrastructure against a political faction which would rather keep oil in the ground.
We’ve seen iterations of that fight play out around energy projects like pipelines and refineries all over the country.
It’s the nature of the Davis Refinery which makes this particular food fight interesting, illustrating as it does how self-styled “progressive” left wing activists are pitting themselves against progress.
Or, specifically, efforts to make the oil and gas industry better.
This project is focused on the efficient, environmentally-friendly refinement of crude oil. So much so that the “Davis model” is becoming something of a term of art used to describe (as reporter Iain Woessner put it recently) “an environmentally efficient facility.”
Meridian touts the project as the "cleanest refinery in the world.” While we might chalk that up to corporate hyperbole, there’s no question the company has worked very hard to set a new standard for the clean refinement of crude oil.
Meridian is working to put us on a path which would allow us to develop our nation’s massive crude oil resources in a manner with far less environmental impact.
You’d think our environmentalist friends would be cheering.
They are not.
Instead they’ve launched a wave of political and legal attacks.
They first tried to claim that the project is too near Theodore Roosevelt National Park.
Reality is the project is miles away from the park’s furthest boundaries. It can’t even be seen in line of sight tests from the park’s highest point.
Then came the lawsuits and regulatory challenges, the latest being the demand from political activists that state regulators subject this project to siting requirements imposed by the law on larger facilities.
A judge just sided with Meridian in a suit over that claim.
In fact, Meridian has won every legal challenge to their project so far.
“A lot of the litigation associated with the permits has slowed us down, but it's not going to stop this,” Meridian CEO Bill Prentice told Woessner. "We keep winning. Any time we win there's an appeal, so that's frustrating. There's a point at which the state supreme court will say 'enough is enough.' There's no new facts ... they're just trying to slow us down.”
They are. Endless legal and political harassment is a tactic, and it’s a shame.
While Meridian works on progress — on ways to develop our vast oil and gas resources with less environmental impact — their “progressive” opponents seek to obstruct it.
Oil and gas are the fuels on which our modern economy runs, and there aren’t any good replacements for them on the horizon.
If we’re going to use them anyway, shouldn’t the environmentalists be in favor of ways to use them more responsibly? Instead of some quioxitic campaign to leave the oil in the ground?
Rob Port, founder of SayAnythingBlog.com, a North Dakota political blog, is a Forum Communications commentator. Listen to his Plain Talk Podcast and follow him on Twitter at @RobPort.