Weather Forecast


Many people show up to second GNPD meeting

DICKINSON - Another fairly large crowd gathered for a second meeting on the coal gasification plant proposed by Great Northern Power Development LP at the Days Inn Grand Dakota Lodge and Conference Center in Dickinson on Wednesday evening. The $1.4 billion plant would be located directly south of South Heart in Stark County.

The crowd was smaller, but more spread out compared to Great Northern's previous recent meeting on Jan. 23 at the South Heart Public School gymnasium.

Anywhere from 150-200 people attended Wednesday's meeting, which had most of the same speakers, except two newcomers.

The new speakers, which included Jobs Development Association Director John Phillips and Stark County Jobs Development Authority Ron Lisko, were one of the last to touch on economic points of discussion during the meeting.

The presentations by others included overviews of permit studies for the plant and mine, environmental impacts and assessments, the technology behind the proposed plant, specifics on mining and more. A question and answer session followed the presentations, similar to the first meeting, but first addressed the most common questions asked in January.

Questions addressed were extensive including impacts on water resources, possible blasting affects on livestock and homes, permitting processes, environmental assessments and more.

One question asked what will happen to wells outside the one-mile perimeter outlined around the mining area designed by Great Northern. Another question asked about the affects on groundwater in and out of the mine area.

"The well-spring survey program has been expanded by Great Northern to be more encompassing," senior project manager with Golder Associates Rick Kinshella said. "The circle goes out about two miles north, south, east and west of the boundary line, and that's a rough distance. So, wells and springs that are part of that area are included in the (survey) program, which we are in the process of notifying people in that area and going out to test field sites."

According to Kinshella's and others analysis, those outside the impacted mining area beyond the two miles, such as three or four miles from the mine, should not expect impacts, he added.

"There is groundwater impact, which diminishes rapidly as you move away from the mine," Kinshella said. "Great Northern has indicated though if property owners greater than a couple miles from outside the (one-mile) boundary... can do their own well survey and pay for it yourself. If the mine is determined to impact the quality and quantity of your water, we will replace your water within regulations in compliance with those and pay for the well survey costs."

North Dakota Public Service Commissioner Kevin Cramer was present at Wednesday's meeting. He said although it is not legal at this time for the commissioners to be talking specifically about the details of the plant project, PSC staff has been involved with baseline work and he sees more work with the PSC in the future.

"An observation, even from tonight's meeting, in the mine permitting process if people request an informal hearing within 30 days with the PSC, we can grant it, but given the level of interest and the importance of this I'll recommend we have a formal hearing and schedule that early on in the process," he said.

The PSC doesn't have a timeline for the hearing on siting certification of the energy conversion facility or coal gasification plant because there's no application yet, he added. However, Great Northern has submitted its 10-year plan and letter of intent for its project, Cramer said.

"I imagine the commissioners and I will be spending a lot of time in Dickinson and the surrounding area in the future," he added. "One cannot ignore the proximity of this site to the national park with its major importance to air quality and what I call the view-shed issues, but it's an exciting process and this isn't our first time with this (type of work)."