Energy plant 'dead in the water'A coal drying plant being built in southwestern North Dakota has been halted by a judge’s ruling that its paperwork did not follow provisions of a county ordinance requiring approval from nearby landowners.
A coal-drying plant being built in southwestern North Dakota has been halted by a judge who ruled that its paperwork did not follow provisions of a county ordinance requiring approval from nearby landowners.
Stark County State’s Attorney Tom Henning said Thursday’s ruling by Judge Zane Anderson means the GTL Energy plant is “dead in the water.”
GTL Energy USA Ltd. has been building the plant near South Heart in rural Stark County, about 13 miles west of Dickinson. The plant would use a method called beneficiation to remove some of the water and impurities from coal to boost its energy value and allow it to burn more cleanly. It had been scheduled to be finished this fall.
Henning said he “dropped the ball” in failing to file the proper documents for rezoning the land from agricultural to industrial. But he said the landowner approval provision of the ordinance is impossible to meet.
The chief executive of Great Northern Project Development, one of the plant’s backers, says it’s still “very, very viable.” CEO Todd Joyner told Bismarck TV station KFYR that the company will work to comply with whatever requirements are needed.
Henning said he did not meet the county ordinance requirement that he provide a list of landowners within 200 feet of the plant “indicating their approval” to rezone the land.
“That’s pretty much impossible,” he said.
Because the provision was not met, Henning said, the judge ruled in favor of the Dakota Resource Council, an area environmental activist group, and reversed the county’s decision to rezone the land for the plant. He said the company has leased more than nine square miles.
“Basically, it’s a start-over for GTL,” Henning said. “Either the ordinance has to be amended or they have to get approval from all the surrounding landowners.”
Henning said he did not know how many landowners that might involve. He believes the ordinance was intended to provide notice to them, not require their approval.
“My impression was that this was bad language that wasn’t caught when the ordinance was adopted in 1982,” he said.