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"Small Town, Big Oil" - The Fight to Keep An Oil Refinery Out of Durham

Photo by Bob LaPree
Courtesy-Diversions Books
A model of the proposed Olympic Refinery on view at the statehouse in Concord in 1973.

We talk with the author of "Small Town, Big Oil" about a David-and-Goliath tale of community activism that played out in N.H.  In 1973, Aristotle Onassis, arguably the richest man in the world, proposed to build the world's biggest oil refinery in the town of Durham.  We learn about the three women who led the fight against the project: activist Nancy Sandberg; Dudley Dudley, a freshman state representative; and Phyllis Bennett, a local newspaper publisher who alerted the public to Onassis' secret acquisition of the land.  


  • Dudley Dudley - former N.H. state legislator, whose first proposed legislation in 1973,  the "Home Rule" bill, gave the town of Durham the right of refusal over the oil refinery project.
  •  David Moore -  author of "Small Town, Big Oil," and a senior fellow at the Carsey Center for Public Policy at UNH.

Author David Moore provided some photos and memorabilia from the battle:

Click on this link for a slideshow from the Durham Historic Association as it recalledthe 1974 oil refinery defeat's 40th anniversarywith news clippings and publications from that time, curated by Nancy Sandberg.

The newspaper Publck Occurrences published by Phyllis Bennett.

This "Battle for Durham Point New Hampshire" video provides more historical context:

Read theNew York Times article from 1974 on the battle over the oil refinery.

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