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Murphy Oil continues discussions about Superior plant expansion

MILWAUKEE -- Murphy Oil Co. has been meeting with environmental regulators from Wisconsin and the federal government to find out what permits it would need to expand its refinery at Superior.

MILWAUKEE -- Murphy Oil Co. has been meeting with environmental regulators from Wisconsin and the federal government to find out what permits it would need to expand its refinery at Superior.

Company officials say they are looking for outside funding for the move but nothing will be formally proposed at this time.

"We're actively looking for a partner," said Dave Podratz, manager of the Superior refinery. "It's something that could happen fairly soon. It could take years to develop, (or) it may never happen."

Podratz said he is aware of the uproar cause by a BP proposal to boost pollution discharges into Lake Michigan for an expansion at its Indiana refinery, and said his company intends to do everything it can to keep a similar controversy concerning Lake Superior.

He said it is too early to talk about what the company might seek in its own discharge permits.

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"We're not anywhere near far enough along with the project where there have been permit applications," he said. "But we're having early and open discussions with the agencies involved to make sure everybody is on the same page."

Those agencies include the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, he said.

Todd Ambs, administrator of the DNR's water division, said Murphy Oil representatives had met with some members of his staff, but he said the discussions have been informal and wide-ranging.

City of Superior officials are pleased about the prospects of a project that could create jobs there.

"You could be looking at somewhere in the neighborhood of 1,000 and 1,500 new positions that could be created as a result of the expansion," said Jeff Vito, Superior's director of economic development and government affairs. "The impact of that would be huge from a regional standpoint, not just a city standpoint."

But environmentalists are concerned about the oil expected to come from Alberta, Canada.

"These Alberta oil sands are some of the dirtiest oil products you can process," said Melissa Malott of the conservation group Clean Wisconsin.

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Information from: Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, http://www.jsonline.com

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