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McLean County Commission rejects oil industry landfill

WASHBURN -- McLean County commissioners on Tuesday rejected a plan to accept oil industry waste into a landfill previously used for coal ash.

Great River Energy, which operates the Coal Creek Station power plant, had requested a permit to upgrade the landfill to accept waste produced during the drilling process.

The permit would have allowed Great River Energy to charge oil companies to dispose of drilling-related waste.

"This landfill would have provided an environmentally safe place to dispose of the waste created by the increasing oil activity in the area," John Weeda, director of North Dakota generation with Great River Energy, said in a release. "We're obviously disappointed by the commission's decision today."

County Commission Chairman Steven Lee said the current site is an ash disposal pit designed to take the fly ash from the power plant. But since the ash has become a marketable product, the ash has been sold and the pit has been sitting unused.

Great River Energy would have charged companies to dump their waste in the new landfill.

Lee said he felt the county wasn't quite ready to commit to dealing with oil industry waste and didn't see an urgent need with some other pits under development closer to the Oil Patch.

"Oil play is quite new, certainly not a mature oil play, so depending on where production goes, they would be better served having a pit closer to the sites where oil activity is taking place," Lee said.

McLean County is east of the Missouri River and north of Bismarck and not in the heart of the Oil Patch. Lee said the county has 46 oil-producing wells, but no drilling is taking place.

He said the new traffic drawn to the landfill also was a concern, with an estimated 10,000 additional trucks a year driving to the site.

Mike Nowatzki
Mike Nowatzki reports for Forum News Service. He can be reached at (701) 255-5607.
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