The Minot City Council did the right thing by rejecting a special permit that would have allowed a company to store up to 57,000 gallons of oil-field chemicals in a warehouse in north Minot.
Baker Hughes can still store some chemicals at the location, but the 960 gallons allowed are far less than the company was seeking. Aldermen voted 8-5 to deny the company the permit it needed to expand its chemical storage capacity.
A majority of aldermen simply weren't comfortable allowing such a large quantity of flammable chemicals to be stored roughly a third of a mile from the proposed site of the new Erik?Ramstad Middle School, in an area that is certain to soon grow into a neighborhood.
We believe company officials have done everything they can to make the facility safe, even going beyond standard safety practices. But with flammable chemicals, and increased truck traffic carrying those chemicals to and from the facility, there would always be some level of risk. Alderman Dean Frantsvog summed our feelings best at the meeting Monday night. "There's no acceptable level of risk when we are dealing with our children," said Frantsvog, who voted against the permit.
Some supporters of the warehouse project have pointed out that the facility is nearly finished, and had already been in the works when the school site was chosen. But that's not the whole story.
According to Cindy Hemphill, city finance director, Baker Hughes received approval on June 8, 2011, to essentially build the facility, but the company did not submit the special use request to store additional chemicals until March 26, 2012. The Minot Public School Board authorized its superintendent and business manager to begin negotiations to buy the land in north Minot on Feb. 2, 2012.
There are appropriate locations to store such chemicals, but near a school and in a soon-to-be growing neighborhood isn't one of them. The city council acted properly in denying the special use permit.