MEDORA, N.D.-The National Parks Conservation Association and two other groups filed an appeal Thursday, July 12, challenging an air quality permit for an oil refinery proposed near Theodore Roosevelt National Park.

The appeal filed in Southwest Judicial District Court challenges the North Dakota Department of Health's finding that the Davis Refinery would be classified as a synthetic minor source of air pollution.

The complaint argues the refinery being developed by Meridian Energy near Belfield should be classified as a major source of air pollution, which would require a more rigorous regulatory review.

Stephanie Kodish, clean air program director for the National Parks Conservation Association, said the Davis Refinery lacks necessary safeguards to minimize pollution and protect the air quality in the national park, which is 3 miles away.

"National Parks Conservation Association refuses to stand by and allow Meridian Energy Group to pollute the air within and surrounding Theodore Roosevelt National Park with its proposed oil refinery," Kodish said in a statement.

The Dakota Resource Council and the Environmental Law & Policy Center joined the NPCA in filing the appeal, which seeks a court to reverse the health department's decision and send it back to the agency for further review.

The appeal argues that Meridian Energy underestimates what the emissions will be and claims the health department's monitoring and testing requirements are inadequate to ensure compliance with the permit.

Terry O'Clair, director of the health department's Air Quality Division, said the agency received the complaint late Thursday and planned to review it with legal counsel.

O'Clair said he stands by the department's decision to classify the refinery as a synthetic minor source. That classification means the facility would emit less than 100 tons annually of any pollutant.

"We put a lot of work into that, and we're confident that our numbers are correct," O'Clair said. "It was a very extensive review, and we feel it does demonstrate that it was a minor source."

A Meridian spokesman said the company had no comment on the appeal Thursday. Previously, Meridian CEO William Prentice has pledged that the facility will be the cleanest refinery on the planet.

Meridian Energy has said construction is expected to begin soon but the exact timeline is unclear.

The appeal of the air quality permit is now the fourth challenge facing the Davis Refinery. At this time, none of the challenges prevent the company from starting construction.

However, O'Clair said the company would be proceeding at its own risk.

A complaint that will be considered by the North Dakota Public Service Commission argues Meridian Energy is attempting to circumvent state law by not applying for a siting permit. The company has about three weeks to respond to the complaint.

A separate lawsuit challenges the local zoning permit, arguing it has expired. Attorneys for Meridian argued in court documents the one-year timeframe in the permit did not start until health regulators approved a permit. Meridian is seeking to have the case dismissed.

There's also a challenge pending related to a water permit granted by the State Water Commission. A hearing before an administrative law judge is set for October.