WILLISTON —The Williams County Commission on Tuesday refused a proposed 992-acre rail spur and transload facility in Pherrin Township northeast of Williston.

The board voted 3-2 against the facility aimed to set up south of 57th Street Northwest.

“I don’t think it’s necessary,” said Commissioner Martin Hanson, who based his vote to oppose the project on environmental and safety concerns and the township’s recommendation for denial of the project. “I don’t think it’s needed.”

Hanson’s remarks come as state officials report North Dakota produces nearly 1.2 million barrels of crude oil per day, of which about 700 bpd is shipped by rail. State officials want to continue pursuing the build-out of pipelines as another means of transportation, but think rail is still needed to transport crude oil out of state. Rail traffic has increased 233 percent from 2005 to 2012.

Previously speaking on behalf of the applicant, Jordon Evert, of Williston-based Furuseth, Kalil, Olson and Evert Law Firm, said “reputable companies” in the oil patch had shown interest in the project that could accommodate 40 percent natural gas liquids, 50 percent dry goods (frack sand, pipe and perhaps agricultural commodities) and 20 percent oil. Evert said Burlington Northern Santa Fe Railway had not formally announced its support, but its representatives had confirmed its interest in the project.

“This facility would be needed,” Evert said during a commission meeting in June. “But these oil companies are afraid, or don’t want to commit to anything in writing until the project is approved.”

Commissioner Dan Kalil was absent during that June meeting when the commission voted 2-2 in deadlock. 

He previously abstained from voting on the county planning and zoning commission because his son works for the Furuseth, Kalil, Olson and Evert Law Firm. The commission on Tuesday allowed him to vote on the project after deciding there was no conflict of interest because the outcome would not welcome personal gain. 

“Is this the new normal? Is this the new old? Are we going to see a ramp-up in activity?” asked Kalil, who also voted against the project. “Those are the factors going into this and we don’t know these things.”

Commissioner Barry Ramberg agreed with Hanson and Kalil and their thinking the project could be brought to the board in the next several years if the need to transport crude-by-rail continued.

“Time will tell,” said Chair David Montgomery, who joined Commissioner 

Wayne Aberle in voting in approval of the project.

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