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Published October 08, 2009, 05:08 AM

GTL Energy coal plant near South Heart, ND, gets go ahead

GTL coal plant gets go ahead Stark County Commission members’ Tuesday vote gives GTL Energy USA Ltd. the go ahead to operate a coal beneficiation plant near South Heart during their Tuesday meeting. By: Ashley Martin, The Dickinson Press

By: Ashley Martin, The Dickinson (ND) Press

Stark County Commission members’ Tuesday vote gives GTL Energy USA Ltd. the go ahead to operate a coal beneficiation plant near South Heart during their Tuesday meeting.

The commissioners decided during their meeting to change the land from agricultural to industrial.

Mary Hodell, who spoke on behalf of Neighbors United at the meeting, is against the zoning change.

“Why does it have to be right in the middle of agricultural land?” Hodell asked.

Chairman Duane “Bucky” Wolf said accessibility to the railroad and Interstate 94 makes it a good place.

Hodell also wants the commission to set strict rules for the trucks going to and from the plant, saying she’s already seen trucks breaking from suggested routes.

“If you’ve got road agreements, what’s the consequence when they don’t follow this? And they haven’t been,” Hodell said.

Commissioner Russ Hoff said the road agreement between GTL and Stark County covers “anywhere from dust control to different roads that they’re taking, signage on roads, weight permits — it pretty much covers it all.”

“GTL has agreed to be held to a higher standard than we hold a lot of producers out there that are trucking a lot of grain on those roads and doing equally as much damage to those roads and I applaud them for their willingness in taking care of them,” Commissioner Jay Elkin said.

Commissioner Ken Zander said he believes most Stark County residents are in favor of the plant, saying he has heard from many residents outside of meetings about their approval of the project.

Neal Messer, spokesman for GTL Energy, attended the meeting.

“This is a beneficiation plant, which will drastically improve the quality of North Dakota lignite and any type of coal, for that matter, by a drying process which allows the coal to drastically increase the BTU value, which would make it much more competitive in the world market…” Messer said.

The same rezoning request was passed by the Zoning Board and the County Commission last year. However, a judge ruled the county did not follow proper steps and the zoning change was overturned, which caused those involved to start the process over.

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