Delegates seek open mind in MadisonWhen residents and government officials head to Madison today and Tuesday, they plan to pursue what could be the least costly,
By: Shelley Nelson, The Daily Telegram
When residents and government officials head to Madison today and Tuesday, they plan to pursue what could be the least costly, and most unusual, issue to ever hit a Superior Days agenda.
They’re merely asking legislators and regulators to keep an open mind until all the facts are available. Beyond that, it’s the rare issue that wouldn’t cost the cash-strapped state a dime.
Keeping an open mind could reap huge economic benefits for the region and the state, and create hundreds of jobs.
Murphy Oil U.S.A. Inc. hasn’t made any decisions on whether or not it will take on a nearly seven-fold expansion of its Superior refinery, but the $6 billion proposal could create as many as 400 permanent and 4,000 construction jobs during the expansion.
“If it does happen, it will be the largest private investment in Wisconsin’s history,” said Andy Lisak, Development Association director and chairman of the Superior Days issues committee. However, opposition to the proposal is already mounting with some environmental groups. Clean Wisconsin has already Web-published two opposition articles, he said.
“An expansion would jeopardize not only the economic value Lake Superior brings to Wisconsin, but would also threaten our cleanest Great Lake and our way of life,” one articles says. “The costs of expansion in terms of public health risks and environmental degradation are greater than the return on investment. Murphy Oil has a dismal track-record when it comes to environmental compliance. An expansion of the refinery would increase that facility’s potential to emit global warming gases, mercury pollution and sulfur dioxide, threatening public health and impairing water quality. The Murphy Oil plant expansion would also likely require certain rules and regulations protecting Wisconsin's environment be bypassed or changed, thus opening up other natural areas throughout the state to development or exploitation … When all the facts are analyzed, Murphy Oil’s proposal is a bad investment for Wisconsin. Wisconsinites deserve a healthy economy that doesn't take a toll on public health and our environment.”
Lisak said there has been a rush to judgment of the potential impact of the project when none of the facts are yet available. Murphy Oil started work on an environmental impact statement, but completion is months away.
“Sometimes if you don’t respond …other folks will take what they say for gospel,” he said.
Dave Podratz, Superior refinery manager, recognizes the potential for groups to lobby against the proposed expansion, but said there are a lot of unknowns at this point — plant design, energy use, air emissions and other issues that could determine if the project moves forward.
“It’s hard to make decisions — is this a good thing or not?” Podratz said. “All we’re asking is … keep an open mind, at least until you get the information.”
From the very beginning of the issues committee meetings, Lisak said, people wanted the potential Murphy Oil expansion on the agenda.
“Murphy said ‘we don’t really need this at this point,’” Lisak said. “What they did say is ‘if you could send a message down to Madison, just say we want to go through this environmental impact statement and just withhold judgment on the project until that’s done.’ It’s more (to) just let people know what is and isn’t going on.”
Contact Shelley Nelson at (715) 395-5022 or firstname.lastname@example.org.