South Heart Coal Project: Milestones from a Long Fight Not Over Yet!

A chronology of a struggle that has lasted nearly a decade, courtesy of South Heart’s Mary Hodell (thank you Mary!). Plains Justice is proud to have provided legal representation and communications support to local residents over the last three years. We’ve all struggled to find funding and and keep our momentum against a tireless and well-funded corporation, but the timeline proves how well we’ve held the line, year after year. They’ve got one hell of a fighting spirit, these North Dakotans.

October 28, 2010: South Heart Coal files another revised mining permit application with the North Dakota Public Service Commission (PSC) in Bismarck.

June 15, 2010: Stark County Commission holds an “executive meeting” with outside attorney, and decides to make a “clarification” on April 2010 rezoning order.  They decide that what they meant their decision to mean was that the area is rezoned, prior to getting other required permits.

April 28, 2010: PSC finds 37 deficiencies in South Heart Coal mining application and returns it for a second time.  Company representatives say they will submit a corrected application within the month.

April 6, 2010: Stark County Commission votes to approve zoning change, with four conditions including obtaining all state permits.  Great Northern Power Development (GNPD) representatives are clearly unhappy, and try to convince the commission that they cannot move forward unless the county rezones.  Opposition presents commission with  PSC statement saying GNPD does not need county approval before going for state permits.

April 5, 2010: County zoning board approves rezoning for GNPD, with the original four conditions.  The State’s Attorney coaches the board to cite how they came to their conclusion, to avoid an appeal.

March 30, 2010: GNPD/South Heart Coal submits its second strip mining application to PSC.  This time around, it’s for 7700 acres.

February 25, 2010: GNPD reapplies for zoning change and conditional use permit.

February 24, 2010: PSC dismisses Dakota Resource Council (DRC) appeal on jurisdiction concern.

February 2, 2010: County decides to rewrite the comprehensive plan.

January 27, 2010: GNPD withdraws zoning amendment application.

November 22, 2009: GNPD applies for rezoning for 7700 acres, and includes an application for a conditional use permit, with nine conditional uses. They are: Chemical fertilizer plant; coal gasification or conversion plant; coal mine; electric power generating plant; Liquid, gas bulk, explosive, highly compressed or other hazardous material storage; Mineral and other substance exploration or excavation and mining; solid waste landfill; manufacture of hazardous products; manufacture of odorous products.

October 6, 2009: County approves rezoning for GTL Energy coal “beneficiation” plant.

September 2, 2009: County approves rewritten zoning ordinance.  Less than two hours later, GTL applies for zoning change, for approximately 40 acres.

August 17, 2009: County holds public hearing on rewriting the zoning rule requiring written approval.  It is pointed out to the commission that despite the judge’s decision, GTL is continuing construction when they no longer have the required permits.  County takes no action against GTL.

August 11, 2009: Stark County Commission decides to rewrite the zoning rule.

August 1, 2009: GNPD announces another change in plans. This time the plant will be a coal to hydrogen electricity plant.

July 22, 2009: Judge Zane Anderson overturns the county’s zoning decision, citing a lack of written findings as well as not following the zoning ordinance requiring written approval of all landowners within 200 feet of the requested rezoning area.  Dickinson Press headlines quote State’s Attorney Tom Henning saying “The project is dead in the water.”

May 6, 2009: Stark County and GTL sign road agreement holding GTL responsible for improvements and maintenance to three miles of 39th St SW.

April 28, 2009: ND State Health Department holds public hearing on the air quality permit applied for by GTL.  Opposition packs the room, with yellow t-shirts showing unity.

March 25, 2009: GNPD withdraws mining application, to show that they and GTL are not working together or connected in any way.

January 22, 2009: Plains Justice, under direction from OSM, asks PSC on behalf of Dakota Resource Council to reconsider the decision that GTL does not fall under PSC jurisdiction.

November 15, 2008: PSC returns mining application to GNPD, citing 69 errors and deficiencies. GNPD vice president Rich Voss tells the Dickinson Press: “We don’t think this is going to slow us down at all.” He estimates it will take a year to complete the application correctly.

October 15, 2008: GNPD files application for a mining permit for 275 acres.

October 14, 2008: GTL holds public meeting at South Heart Golf Course, 10:00am, on a Tuesday.

October 4, 2008: Plains Justice, on behalf of DRC, asks the Office of Surface Mining to overturn PSC decision that GTL does not fall under PSC jurisdiction.

September 2, 2008: County approves GTL rezoning request with four conditions, adding the condition of a written road agreement.

August 28, 2008: Public meeting held for rezoning request.  Despite overwhelming opposition, and a room packed with yellow t-shirts, the board votes to recommend the zoning change.  The board creates three conditions:

1. GTL Energy obtains all required approvals and permits from appropriate state agencies.
2. The Stark County State’s Attorney must review the application and make sure it complies with all the county ordinances.
3. GTL must hold a public informational meeting in South Heart.

August 15, 2008: Rezoning request is made by GTL.  Approximately 40 acres is requested for rezoning.

August 5, 2008: Stark County Zoning board denies Stevenson Funeral Home a permit to open a crematorium.  Then Commissioner George Nodland says “The purpose of this ordinance is to promote the public health, safety and welfare of the people of Stark County. To secure the orderly development of the county and to provide the sound and appropriate use of land,” Nodland read.  He then stated the definition to the board. “It says the health, the happiness and the general well-being,” Nodland said. “Well that kind of hit home today.”

July 28, 2008: GTL writes to PSC double checking that they would not fall under PSC jurisdiction, claiming that their beneficiation plant would not be tied to any one mine and therefore should not be regulated as part of a minemouth coal processing operation.  PSC agrees with GTLs assumption.

May 21, 2008: Westmoreland Coal Company withdraws from Lignite Vision 21 program and scraps plans to build a 500 MW coal plant near Gascoyne.  Amongst stated reasons, close proximity to Theodore Roosevelt National Park and concerns about the effect on air quality helped make the decision.

May 3, 2008: ND Attorney General opinion states Stark County Commission violated open meeting laws by holding closed door GNPD meeting.

April 30, 2008: DRC and area landowners file appeal on county decision.

April 8, 2008: County recreates GNPD closed door meeting.  Neighbors United gets on the county meeting agenda and makes attempt to convince county to hold off on the rezoning until all the state permits are applied for.  County approves rezone request, with four conditions:

1. GNPD obtains all necessary local, state, and federal permits first.

2. GNPD agrees in writing to replace all water lost from the mining.

3. GNPD builds and maintains all necessary roads, to the specifications of the Stark County Commission.

4. GNPD will work in concert with local law enforcement and emergency services, to facilitate public safety.

April 3, 2008: GNPD and GTL announce, in a joint press release, the selected technology for the gasification plant.  Announced GNPD would seek “direct ownership” in said technology.

March 4, 2008: County decides to grant rezone request, but since it appears they will be found in violation of open meeting laws, they decide to table the decision until the illegal meeting is recreated.

February 20, 2008: GNPD holds second public meeting in Dickinson.

January 24, 2008: GNPD holds public meeting at South Heart School.  Details about the project or plant are not announced, as they “haven’t been nailed down yet.”  GNPD states its plan to start construction in the spring of 2009, and be mining in 2010.

January 3, 2008: Stark County Zoning Board holds public hearing on rezoning.  Opposition outnumbers supporters and the board unanimously voted to table the decision until GNPD held some public meetings.

December 14, 2007: GNPD holds private meeting with Dickinson business people, South Heart City Commissioners, and Stark County Commission.  Dakota Resource Council (DRC) requests Attorney General opinion, as a quorum of the county commission was present.

December 2007: Opponents of the coal project circulate a petition, gathering signatures requesting an Environmental Impact Statement (EIS). Many supporters of the project also sign, agreeing there is no harm in finding out more about the project before it goes through.

November 20, 2007: GNPD announces intention to change project from coal power to coal gasification.

November 12, 2007: GNPD applies for zoning change to rezone from Agricultural to Industrial.

August 20, 2007: South Heart Coal withdraws air quality permit.

August 18, 2005: South Heart Coal files for an air quality permit with State Health Dept. to build a 500 MW coal fired power plant.

August 20, 2003: GNPD holds a public meeting in Dickinson.

August 19, 2003: GNPD holds a public meeting in South Heart, giving a rough outline of their planned coal mine and power plant project.

May 7, 2003: Bismarck Tribune article announces GNPD will be breaking ground for 500 MW coal plant in 2005.  Mentions GNPD has received $1.3 million from Lignite Vision 21 program.

April 26, 2002: GNPD sends letter to EPA, trying to get them to change the way they measure pollution in North Dakota.

October 2, 2001: GNPD gets coal leases signed by South Heart area landowners.

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2 Responses to South Heart Coal Project: Milestones from a Long Fight Not Over Yet!

  1. Pingback: Tweets that mention South Heart Coal Project: Milestones from a Long Fight Not Over Yet! | Plains Justice Today --

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