BISMARCK — A North Dakota judge has agreed with state utility regulators who said they lacked siting authority over an oil refinery planned near Theodore Roosevelt National Park, dealing a blow to environmental groups fighting the project.

District Judge Bruce Romanick said Tuesday, May 14, that the Public Service Commission is "without jurisdiction" because Meridian Energy Group intends to build a refinery with a capacity of 49,500 barrels per day. State law requires a siting permit for facilities capable of refining 50,000 barrels per day or more.

The Dakota Resource Council and the Environmental Law and Policy Center brought the appeal of the PSC's decision.

Linda Weiss, past chairwoman of the DRC, said they plan to take the case to the state Supreme Court, noting that the state Department of Health last year issued an air quality permit that allowed for a 55,000-barrel-per-day facility.

A Meridian spokesman said the company was "very pleased" by the decision and said pushing it into a state siting process is a "transparent attempt to slow down the project" because county commissioners have already given their blessing.