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Refinery near Dickinson won't smell like in the '70s

Residents sought answers Thursday to their questions about how their quality of life and the area's natural resources would be impacted if a new refinery is built.

Gary Lindgren, director of corporate HS&E programs for Calumet Specialty Products Partners LP, said people need to remember that a refinery built today would not resemble the refineries of 1970s -- the last time a new refinery was built in the U.S.

"Today, there are pollution control standards we have to meet," he said in response to a question about the odor a refinery would produce. "It won't smell like a bed of roses, but it will smell much less than asphalt plants."

The $325 million refinery that could be built by MDU Resources Group Inc. and Calumet Refining LLC approximately five miles southwest of Dickinson, between Dickinson and South Heart, was discussed at the Badlands Activity Center in Dickinson during the second of two public meetings.

The refinery would operate 24 hours a day, seven days a week and employ about 100 workers.

"This is a very simple refinery," Lindgren said. "It will not have all of the things needed to make gasoline, which we do in Wisconsin. The crude produced here will be used to make the diesel that is needed here, so the economic value of the refinery will stay in the community."

The land for the facility will have to be rezoned by the Stark County Planning and Zoning Commission and County Commission. MDU plans to have zoning completed in July and have the facility running in 2014.

John Stumpf, MDU vice president of strategic planning, said the refinery could help lessen the truck traffic in the area.

the fuel produced would stay local and reduce the need to transport fuel from outside of North Dakota.

"All of the fuel that serves this area and its high demand has to be trucked in from either Mandan or Jamestown or Billings or on an occasion Minneapolis or other places, so really this facility will help take some of those trucks off the road," he said.

For all the good the companies are trying to do with public meetings, one resident reminded them that they need to be prepared for spills and other problems a refinery could cause.

"Don't get too big to fail," the man warned. "This is not all going to be smooth. You are going to have upsets and spills."

Even with some pushback from residents, particularly about the refinery's impact on life in the Dickinson area, MDU Public Relations Manager Timothy Rasmussen said there is still a lot of support for the project to move forward.

"We want to engage the public early as we start this process," he said. "The concerns have been similar about the project and we've had one or two people who have criticized our plans, but a majority of people are just curious and they come seeking answers. We don't always have the answers, but they are making us aware of their concerns, so that we can hopefully address their issues as we go forward."