The Lake Region news wires were hit yesterday with the news that Devils Lake would be welcoming a new oil refinery into town, but according to city officials, that is far from the case.
According to Devils Lake mayor Richard Johnson, while he concedes that there have been talks of developing an oil refinery here with American Energy Holdings, LLC, no commitment has been made by the city. Not by a long shot.
In order for an oil refinery to be constructed here, a primary initiative from the city’s standpoint would be to ensure the safety of the new plant, not just for those who would be working in it, but for the Devils Lake environment here, as well.
Devils Lake is home to one of the most plentiful fisheries in North America, and the city commission insists that it will not jeopardize that for the sake increased economic development.
“Our mission as city commissioners is to preserve the quality of life that we enjoy here in Devils Lake,” Johnson said, “and we’re not going to sacrifice that for the sake of economic development. We need to keep our environment clean. We need to keep our lake as clean as we can. So, we have to protect those key components of our community.”
However, despite the environmental sentiments that often arise when the topic of oil comes to the forefront, Johnson also admits that the city would be remiss if they didn’t at least consider the notion of a Devils Lake oil refinery.
There are oil refineries all over the country, including a few in North Dakota, that have inspired minimal environmental impact, and if the City Commission, partnered with Forward Devils Lake, can develop a plan that ensures the environmental well being of the community in conjunction with the oil refinery, then it will certainly be something for the Commission to consider.
“Right now, there are too many unanswered questions for us to just go ahead and support a thing like this, but we’d be remiss not to look at it, too,” Johnson said. “For us to simply say that we’re not interested isn’t in the best interest of this city. I think it needs to be vetted, it needs to be looked at, and if we find out that having the refinery wouldn’t be in the best interest of our community, then we won’t do it.”
But if all involved with this potential project can find a way to make it work, it’s estimated to bring in excess of 60 high-paying jobs to Devils Lake, which can only spell out good things for the city and it’s continued economic growth.
Page 2 of 2 - “That’s just how cities grow, but we want it to be good growth,” Johnson said. “We can’t sacrifice our city’s well being for growth that isn’t appropriate for the community.
“Before we do anything else here regarding this project, there are still a lot of questions that need to be answered. But, to say that we’re not interested would not be true, because we are. We’re just waiting for all the information to come in before we even think about taking the next step.”
Should the project planning continue to progress and it reaches the desk of the City Commission, Johnson also insists that he will call public hearings regarding the plant’s construction in order to gather the public’s opinion before the Commission makes a final decision.