Around 100 people attended a public hearing Tuesday on an air permit for Husky Energy as part of its $400 million plans to rebuild the Superior oil refinery. An explosion and series of fires last spring damaged the refinery’s equipment and storage tanks.
Husky, which does business as Superior Refining Company in Wisconsin, applied for the permit with the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources earlier this year when it announced plans to rebuild the refinery and resume partial operations in 2020. The permit will cover repair and replacement of equipment damaged in the fires and explosion on April 26, 2018.
Labor representatives, business groups and Superior’s mayor asked the state to sign off on the permit for the rebuilding project. They pointed to the refinery’s history, community contributions and the economic impact from around 200 permanent jobs with a $27 million payroll in addition to hundreds of construction jobs that will be created during the rebuild.
"We string together these temporary construction jobs into one job for one person that supports one family," said Craig Fellman, president of JAMAR Company, a Duluth construction business. "From a jobs standpoint, the rebuild and getting Husky back into full operation is absolutely vital."
They also touted the rebuild as an opportunity for Husky to improve safety in its operations moving forward. Atticus Larson, Husky electrician and union member with the Local 420 Operating Engineers, said Husky’s No. 1 goal has been safety.
"Everything that Husky corporation and local management has said they’re going to do, they have as a whole," said Larson. "Trust me, we’ve held their feet to the fire, but they have done absolutely everything they’ve said they’re going to do."
However, others voiced their distrust in the company and its ability to keep the community safe in the wake of last year’s explosion, including Korii Northrup, a member of the Fond du Lac Band of Lake Superior Chippewa.