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Great Northern to hold another public meeting

DICKINSON - Another public meeting is being held by Great Northern Power Development LP at 6:30 p.m. on Wednesday, Feb. 20, at the Days Inn-Grand Dakota Lodge and Conference Center in Dickinson.

The meeting is the second of a series the company is holding about its proposed $1.4 billion coal gasification plant near South Heart.

Great Northern Vice President Richard Voss said next week's meeting includes a similar presentation and question-and-answer session to that which was held Wednesday, Jan. 23, at the South Heart Public School gymnasium.

"It's going to be pretty much the same with maybe a few minor things updated," Voss said of the Dickinson meeting. "We may discuss any further progress on our permit application preparations or any progress done with engineering (studies)."

GNPD is in the midst of applying for a mining permit from the North Dakota Public Service Commission, which Voss said should be submitted in March.

At the meeting in January, company officials collected question cards from spectators who packed the gym, gathered them together and grouped questions by categories to answer.

"We eliminated duplicate questions and those (questions) we didn't get to we've being following up on," Voss said. "We hope to finish (the follow up) before or by next week. We hope at this next meeting to give people answers on the things we've most been asked about."

The plant and mine's impact on water resources and area roads, the project's timeline and giving public input on the process are major areas of interest.

"With water we will be continuing our well survey study," Voss said. "We'll talk on that and at this meeting we'll also have our permitting manager Rich Southwick give his insight on the whole process and the opportunities for public input."

Changing deadlines for the pre-Front End Engineering and Development or pre-FEED studies is another thing that has been questioned.

"As we engineer through them the timeline changes," he said. "We find things that may require more work. It's a work in progress."

Voss said Wednesday he hopes the pre-FEED studies will be done by the third quarter of this year and the FEED studies would be done by the fourth quarter of next year.

For the past couple weeks, Great Northern has had volunteers and paid individuals circulating petitions in support of its plant project, which Voss said has been getting a good response.

"We haven't tallied anything yet," Voss said. "We hired about a half a dozen people to work on it initially, but more than a dozen others have volunteered. We wanted to get a sense of the wide base support and this was a good way to investigate that."

Voss did not indicate how the petition would be used in the future.

A different petition was presented by those who oppose the plant at the Stark County Planning and Zoning Commission meeting on Thursday, Jan. 3. The petition asked the commission to require an environmental impact statement before making a decision on GNPD's rezoning application on acquiring 17 sections of agricultural land for its mine.

In the end, the commission decided to table its decision until its next meeting on Monday, March 3.

"Whether we use it at a zoning meeting is yet to be determined," Voss said of the company's petition.

Voss said at this time, there are no further public informational meetings planned after the Dickinson event.

"We're thinking with the progress of things, we'll wait until the third quarter for anymore major meetings," Voss said. "We'll give updates to those who request it like economic groups. I'm speaking at the Southwest Economic Development annual meeting on Feb. 26. We'll also talk to business leaders, legislative groups and respond to those with substantial interest (in the project)."