Tim Leeds Havre Daily News email@example.com
Evan Barrett had a proposal for Havre at the end of a presentation to community leaders Monday night if Havre is interested, the governor’s office would work with the community to develop an oil refinery here. “Havre can be a target for growth if Havre wants to. That’s up to you,” said Barrett, business development officer for Gov. Brian Schweitzer. Barrett is on a tour of eastern Montana to talk about the plans Schweitzer, who is running for reelection, has for economic development. Barrett said he will be asking communities in this part of the state if they are interested in that proposal. No new refineries have been built in the United States in 30 years, he said. In stead, oil companies have been upgrading existing facilities. “We need a new refinery, and why not in Montana?” he asked. He said the governor’s office is willing to work as a facilitator if a community is interested in developing a refinery, which could add up to 250 high-paying jobs. “It can’t be done unless the community wants to do it ,” Barrett said. “We are willing to do this if the community wants to do this, but there has to be a dialogue.” He said the communities that are interested will have to come up with a plan, a presentation of why their community would be the best place to build a refinery. The governor’s office will help and will work with whatever company actually builds a plant, Barrett said. He added that it is likely the plant would be operated by a smaller company rather than a big oil company, as those companies continue to focus on existing refineries. The company looking to build would decide which town and which plan is best to move forward with, he said. Some Havre community leaders at the meeting said they are intrigued and would like to look into it. Paul Tuss, executive director of Bear Paw Development Corp., said exploring building a refinery is something the community could examine. “I think its an opportunity for northern Montana that would be a plus,” Tuss said. “There would have to be a significant amount of community buy-in in order to go that direction “It’s difficult to know where to begin on such an effort,” he said. Tuss said this morning, as he did during Monday’s meeting, that reducing emissions such as by reducing carbon dioxide emissions through carbon sequestration would have to be a key component to such a plan. There would have to be significant planning before such a project could move forward, he added. “These aren’t huge projects, these are monstrous projects,” Tuss said. “I would welcome any economic development in Havre including an Oil refinery,” Craig Tilleman of Tilleman Motor Co. Said this morning. Tilleman said his main concern is that different towns in eastern Montana could look like they are fighting over the opportunity. It might be better to narrow the field, he said. Dennis Morgan of Modern Aire said he was intrigued by Barrett’s presentation. “I think it’s a good thing and we should pursue it,” he said. Morgan said there are many other issues that Havre should not lose track of, such as the push to widen U.S. Highway 2 to four lanes and to open the Wild Horse Port of Entry into Canada to a 24-hour commercial port. The development of infrastructure, including oil pipelines and power transmission lines, is crucial to development like what Barrett spoke of, Morgan said. But, he added, he supports considering an oil refinery. “I think we should pursue it as a community,” he said. “I am sure we are going to be looking into it.” Much of the focus of Barrett’s presentation, which included a PowerPoint presentation in Donaldson Commons at Montana State University-Northern, talked about energy development. That has been a focus of Schweitzer’s administration since he took office in 2005. Barrett said that, especially as the price of oil skyrockets, the country needs to find alternatives to the 4 billion gallons of oil it imports every year. Schweitzer wants that to happen in several key areas: development of alternative energy, including biofuels, wind energy, solar energy, geothermal energy and other environmentally friendly methods; development of cleaner-burning coal plants; and increasing the U.S. production of oil. He also said that only two states in the nation are now expanding their oil production: Montana and North Dakota. A recent U.S. Geological Survey study, released in April, said there are 3 to 4.3 billion gallons of oil recoverable in a formation in eastern Montana and in North Dakota. That is 25 times higher than a 1995 estimate. Petroleum exploration and drilling is increasing in other parts of the state including north-central Montana. Barrett said that another alternative is importing oil from our neighbor to the north instead of importing it from the volatile Middle East. Importing oil from Canada is almost like buying it from your in-laws, he said. Montana’s neighbor to the north, Alberta, is now exporting 1.1 billion barrels of oil a year and will expand that by another 1 billion, Barrett said. The opportunity is to refine it in Montana, he added. Barrett said the number of jobs such an investment would provide would depend on the size of the refinery. A small refinery would create about six high-paying jobs, he said. A large refinery, such as the refinery in Billings, refining about 60,000 barrelsper- day, would create about 250 jobs.