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June 5, 2008
Finally! A new refinery
It's been a long time coming but it looks like we may get our first new oil refinery in over 30 years. By a margin of 58% to 42% the voters in Union County, S.D. have approved the re-zoning of 3292 acres for a new oil refinery. Hyperion Energy has promised billions of dollars in capital investment and thousands of high paying jobs. The construction of the refinery will require 4500 jobs over a four year period and when the plant is in operation it will provide over 1800 full time jobs at a pay scale of $20-$30 dollars per hour.
The Sioux City Journal has the story here:
ELK POINT, S.D. -- Flashing a smile, Joyce Bortscheller briefly hugged Hyperion Energy Center executive Preston Phillips as she greeted him in the backyard of her home here.The Sioux City Journal has another story concerning a meeting with the zoning Commission and Hyperion Energy. Officials from the company highlighted the benefits to the community of the project which include: Tripling the county's valuation to $3.4 billion. And according to the company this new refinery will have 80% less emissions than any refinery in California, which has the strictest air quality regulations in the country.
Bortscheller, president of the Elk Point City Council, had invited about 250 supporters to an outdoor barbecue Tuesday to await the returns for arguably the most important election in Union County's history. The big crowd didn't leave disappointed.
As midnight approached, they popped the champagne corks, celebrating a hard-fought victory that keeps alive the county's chances of landing the nation's first all-new oil refinery in 32 years.
By a solid 58 percent to 42 percent margin, county voters approved Hyperion's request to rezone 3,292 acres of farm land for a new classification, Energy Center Planned Development.
"What happened tonight, we were not supposed to be able to do," Phillips told a cheering audience. "Development projects like this are supposed to be outright rejected by residents and neighbors. But this project is a testament to our balancing the needs for growth and for protecting the environment."
At stake was billions of dollars in capital investment and thousands of high-paying jobs. From the beginning, Hyperion executives said they would abandon its Union County site, just north of Elk Point, if a majority of voters failed to give their blessing to the rezoning.
Project executive Corky Frank and Todd Meierhenry, a Beresford, S.D., attorney working with the company, also took a portion of the 90-minute presentation.Of course the public has the right to be skeptical but we should take into account this will be a new refinery using new cleaner technology. Comparing this new refinery to the old refineries in operation now is like comparing a 2009 Honda Civic to a 1975 Ford LTD.
If constructed, the 400,000-barrel-per-day refinery would be the first built in the United States in more than 30 years. The officials pitched the project as a step, along with various renewable energies, in reducing U.S. dependence on foreign oil.
Meierhenry juxtaposed studies showing the decline and low profitability of farming in the county with a study showing the massive economic impact Dakota Dunes, a planned development in the southern tip of the county. He said they show that the $10 billion oil refinery would be the salvation of small farms by providing 1,800 jobs and the off-farm income needed to allow families to stay on the land.
And, he said, it would provide a windfall of tax revenues for the county, schools and state, tripling the county's tax valuation to $3.4 billion. He also worked to convince commissioners that the planned development zoning fit into the county's comprehensive plan and was superior to the alternatives.
Phillips touted the facility's anticipated environmental profile. He said the refinery would draw about 10 million gallons of water from the Missouri River each day -- 1/20 of 1 percent of the river's daily flow -- from shallow wells so as not to affect recreational use of the river. It would also create a 500-acre wetland recreation area.
In addition, the refinery would supplant river water use by using its own "gray water" from restrooms and captured rainfall run-off, and then return it to the earth cleaner than the river water.
And, he pledged, the emissions into the air would be 1/30th that of the typical Midwest coal plant and 80 percent less than any refinery in California, which has the strictest air quality regulations.
"There will be no odor and there will be no noise," Frank pledged.
If (and it is a big IF) it passes all the hurdles of permits and protests to come, it could be just the first of many new refineries. And now perhaps the time has come to build a new nuclear power plant? Everyone wants to protect the environment but unless we are prepared to go back to using candles for light and horses for transportation we will need to build new refineries and power plants.
(Note: Hyperion CEO Albert Huddleston is not related to the author of this article.)