GTL Energy (USA) Limited, Coal Beneficiation Facility

From Global Energy Monitor

In April, 2008, GTL Energy of Australia announced that it intended to build a coal drying plant at the South Heart location. The North Dakota Public Service Commission denied that they had jurisdiction over permitting the plant even though both state and federal code refer to drying plants as "coal preparation plants,” which must be permitted under the Surface Mining Control and Reclamation Act (SMCRA).

On September 30, 2008, local landowners and Dakota Resource Council (DRC) filed a second appeal of the Stark County Commission’s to amend the Stark County Zoning Ordinance and allow Australia-based GTL Energy to zone industrial for a coal beneficiation plant.

“According to the North Dakota Century Code, § 11-33-03, zoning decisions must be made in accordance with the objectives in the Stark County comprehensive plan,” said Derrick Braaten, attorney for DRC. A specific policy in the Plan is to promote “the ideal of the family farm and support establishment and continuation of adequate farm programs.” The plan also states that the county should “strive to protect the agricultural integrity of the rural areas,” to “avoid conflicts between land uses,” and to “maintain” the county’s “clean and favorable environment.”

On October 3, 2008, DRC asked the federal government to stop construction of a coal drying plant near South Heart until the plant is incorporated into a mining permit. The complaint to the Office of Surface Mining (OSM) states “DRC believes the findings of the PSC are in error and contrary to plainly stated law and OSM regulations.” It further states “this warrants immediate OSM review and intervention,” and asks for immediate action by the OSM to halt imminent construction of the GTL Energy facility.

GTL Energy began construction of the coal drying plant the week of October 6, 2008.

The coal drying plan is slated to open December, 2009. Lignite shipped from New Zealand is now en route to North Dakota to test the technology. If the technology works, GTL (Australia) is likely to open a similar plant in New Zealand, as reported in the Bismarck Tribune, December 6, 2009.

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