Sunday, September 28, 2008

sink or swim?

October 1st, 2008
Sink or swim?
This Hyperion issue is approaching what I call “critical mass.” October 13th is the drop dead date for sending comments to DENR concerning the clean air permit. That is less than 2 weeks away. I was on the DENR website Friday night and there are only about 30 new comments posted on the website. There will probably be more by the time this article is printed. I am concerned about the letters that have been sent for comment. Not for content, but quantity. DENR is not going to consider 40-50 letters questioning Hyperion’s action as a major influence. They will think again if there are hundreds of letters. This one permit is not the end, but the beginning of a long struggle.
I have been hearing a lot of people talking that Hyperion must be losing interest in the refinery because they aren’t in the paper. They don’t have the money and the big companies aren’t interested. Nothing could be further from the truth. I mentioned last week about the water and power issue and “secret” meetings with various state and federal agencies. We are sitting on our laurels and they are working behind the scenes talking and making deals to get this process done. Hyperion spent over $125,000 just on the primary election for advertising and expenses. There is no doubt in my mind that they can outspend us 10-1 to keep us from winning this lawsuit. The thing we have that is greater than Hyperion is determination and resolve.
Clay Rural Water had their board meeting last Thursday and voted not to do anything until they get more information. They first voted on a motion to refuse to consider the request by Hyperion but it failed on a 5-2 vote. Then they voted to ask for more information but not be committed to making a decision. That passed 5-2. If CRWS doesn’t build the water facility, someone else will. It is as simple as that. Hyperion quoted in their letter to CRWS that they want to give local businesses the right of first refusal. I hate to say this, but we are not prepared to compete against big oil. There is no doubt in my mind that Hyperion doesn’t have the capability to build a refinery, but they can broker the deal for a large oil company to step in and get the job done. All Hyperion has to do is grease the wheel. Every permit they get increases the value when it comes time to sell it. Big companies are just sitting back letting Hyperion jump through the hoops, and when all the permits are in place, there will be a big auction at Hyperion and it will go to the highest bidder. Just keep in mind; they only have two more years to get this done. After that their options run out and the price of land will go through the roof.
With the events that have been going on the last couple of weeks, I have to ask this question. Do we really want to stop Hyperion from building a refinery, or are we just spitting in the wind? What is it going to take to get people behind this issue? There are people out there who don’t understand what we are doing and accuse us of complaining and whining. I can’t tell you how many times I have heard people ask me “why can’t you quit whining and just accept the fact there is going to be a refinery here?” Have you ever seen the cartoon of the frog being eaten by the big crane? The frog is in the mouth of the crane and the frog’s hands are around the crane’s neck. The caption is “giving up is not an option.” I firmly believe this will never happen, but at the same time I want to do everything possible to make sure my prophecy is fulfilled. I just cannot imagine waking up in the morning and seeing the pallor of smoke coming from the refinery. Life is too short, and I don’t need to have it shortened by some stupid refinery in my back yard. There it is that fateful acronym - NIMBY.
One of the things I stress when I talk to people about Hyperion and their strategy is that we must outthink them. More than likely, they have had this refinery in the works for many years. They have a timetable to work with, and we don’t. They know what they are going to do and when they are going to do it. All we can do is be prepared to counter what they do. We need to anticipate what their next move is and not be surprised when they do something different. If you remember any of my past articles, I stressed that to them this is a giant chess game. The end result is having a refinery operational in Union County. How they get there is our problem. People getting together having strategy sessions, not bitch sessions, but strategy sessions to talk about what Hyperion is doing and how to counter that seems to me to be a good idea. What do you folks think? Can we do this? Do you have the courage to do this? Can we do this effectively? Does anyone want to do this? Is this a lost cause?

one plus one = ?

September 24th, 2008
One plus One =?
I think I should be in charge of rumor central for this project. I get bits and bobs from people all over and when I start putting this information together, funny stuff starts making sense. This week all started when I was talking to a reputable source, who mentioned that they have a friend who heard that when it comes time for Hyperion to file its water permit, they might have a big problem. It seems that the water level in the Missouri river where Hyperion plans on putting the plant to extract the water for the refinery is too shallow to accommodate the water plant and that this area of the river is controlled by the Army Corps of Engineers rather than the state and since this is a federal waterway, Hyperion might be stepping into deep DOO-DOO when it comes to getting a water permit.
I thought it was really interesting that this should crop up just now because I also heard this week that Hyperion had been talking to Mid-America Utilities about them building a power plant somewhere between Akron and Sioux City and running transmission lines to the refinery site . Then Hyperion would buy the electricity from them that way Hyperion would not have to build their own power plant. Mid-America was not receptive to this idea because they are a Public Utility and would require the board of directors to approve such a measure and it would be very risky for them to enter into a venture as big as this when Hyperion might not in fact be able to build a refinery. What would happen if they build the power plant and Hyperion decides for whatever reason they are not going to build here? Mid America is left holding the bag. “And a fine one it is too.” This would only make sense if Hyperion wasn’t able to build its IGCC facility.
Let’s add one more piece to the puzzle. The regional director of the National Park Service met with Hyperion last week at Ponca State Park. For what reason we can only guess. It seems that the place where Hyperion wants to build the water facility is directly across the river from Ponca State Park and the Park Service might have jurisdiction over this area. H-m-m-m-m what is going on here? I got an explanation that the regional director is new to the area and wanted to be brought up to speed on the project. What a bunch of bunk. The regional director just moved to Yankton because the regional office was moved from O’Neill Nebraska. It’s still the same guy and He still has the same area to cover; only now he covers it from Yankton. Oh by the way, I heard that the Army Corps of Engineers was present at the meeting. H-m-m-m is there something going on here that we aren’t supposed to know about? The Army Corps of Engineers, National Park Service, and Hyperion. H-m-m-m..
This week at the County Commissioners meeting a really strange thing happened. During the States Attorneys time on the agenda, rather than talk about legal issues, he brought in Mr. Jeff Loof and Mr. Kevin Beermann from the soil conservation to talk about Swamp busters and Tiling wetlands. Mr. Loof went into great detail explaining the types of wetlands and about tiling a temporary wetland, I’m not an expert on this, so it went way over my head. But there are a couple of questions. Why were these guys brought in to speak with the commissioners by the States Attorney? Why weren’t they brought in by the commissioners and given time on the agenda to speak about this issue? The states attorney normally restricts his comments and time to legal matters. Granted, the end result is to create a county ordinance whereby permits will be required to be given for messing with wetlands, but for the States Attorney to be sponsoring this doesn’t seem to fit the picture. Is there a hidden agenda here?
He did make one statement that put this into perspective though and I’d like to quote him. “If this study can be done to determine approximately how much water we are talking about during an event because that is what I think our main concern or the county’s main concern is going to be is if we have a 2-inch rain, that how many acre feet of water are we talking about that’s going to be dumped into the Township right-of-way and now does that Township Right-of-way need a bigger culvert to handle it? It may be able to handle one tract of land or two tracts of land, but if we’ve got 10 tracts of land hitting this culvert, are we talking about a potential of a flood or washout because that culvert can’t handle it and then the same thing as that eventually hits the county culverts and the county bridges. So is there a way, let’s say we did a permit process and part of our permit process was to ask for that math to be done, could we do that and if we did do that, would you cooperate and provided us with that so our engineers, our highway superintendent, can start plugging those numbers in and figure that out or is that not possible. Mr. Loof replied “that the rule of thumb and our policy is that we don’t do that for wetland determination because it is not required in the wetland determination process and when somebody comes in and asks us to run that, we say no, you have to go to a private engineer.” Since when has the county ever given a rip about the drainage of a wetland? Or of a temporary flooding of cropland? How many times a year does the drainage board meet? Come on!
Would 3200 acres of concrete and asphalt create this problem? Say from a company like Hyperion Energy Center? Oh by the way, wetlands fall under the jurisdiction of the Army Corps of Engineers. Ain’t this sumthin? Naw they wouldn’t be thinking that far in advance would they? DUH!
One more item to consider. Retired State Supreme court justice Judge Miller who is the presiding judge on the Eminent Domain issue for the DM&E railroad said on September 19th, that he doesn't intend to "fully or blindly comply with or enforce the 90-day limitation" because he considers it unconstitutional. Whoa, should we be paying attention to this?

Friday, September 19, 2008

Let's get back on Track

September 17th, 2008
Let’s get back on track
There are rumors flying everywhere this weekend. There was an article in the Sioux City Journal on Friday that there are some options on the Hyperion project that have not been renewed. As of Saturday I can count 5. There might be more, but I can only account for 5. By the time this is printed in the paper there may even be more. All we can do is hope. This brings me to the following questions. Is Hyperion running out of money? After all, they still have not said they are coming here. Now you know they are expecting us to ask that question. They will say “Why of course not, we are just firming up the areas.” Right! Randy Golden bought land for $9000 an acre and now is trying to sell it for $70,000 an acre. I would think Hyperion would hold on to all it can wouldn’t you?
I really have to cuss Hyperion on this one because I was in bed almost asleep when these thoughts come sweeping though my head. They just kept running round and round, so I didn’t any choice but to get up and start typing.
When Hyperion was touting this refinery, it was to begin construction in 2009 and be finished by 2014. Okay, this is September, 2008 and it seems to me that they had better get started or they will be behind the power curve and never catch up. First of all, the refinery is 9 or 10 miles from the Missouri river. Has anyone seen the planned route they are going to use for the pipeline carrying the water? Hyperion does not own all the land between the river and the refinery so that means that they are going to have to purchase more land, negotiate leases, or use EMINENT DOMAIN! The State of South Dakota is going to descend upon us and with one quick stroke of the pen is going to take land away from current landowners to make way for the refinery. How long will it take the courts and concerned landowners to arrive at an agreeable price? The new law that the legislature passed last year makes it possible to happen in 60-90 days. Check the ruling the legislature made concerning the DM&E railroad.
Now being the simple person that I am I would have a map drawn out where I want to send this pipeline (other than up someone’s backside…) I think I would be letting people know that I plan on taking your land for the pipeline, and will probably offer you the assessed value for your land for you to have the privilege to letting a water pipeline lay in your ditch 5 feet down. The pipe could be 36 inches in diameter laying five feet down in your ditch. I should think by now they have it planned out where they want it to go, so why aren’t they talking to landowners. Maybe they want you to all be pissed off at the same time so they are keeping it a secret. No sense in having everyone in a big tussle for months and months, let’s just do it right before it is going to be done.
Speaking of Eminent Domain has anyone given any thought lately as to where the railroad is going to fit in. they don’t have to declare eminent domain by the way, they have easements going back to 1854 that have not been abandon, so all they have to do is resurrect those old lines and they are back is business. They just come to the door and say “so sorry mate, but we have an easement through your property to build a railroad. If you would be so kind as to pack your belongings and get out it would be greatly appreciated.”
Does one get the feeling that this is just the tip of the iceberg? It really makes me wonder what other surprises Hyperion has in store for us. You know, Hyperion hasn’t said anything about where the pipelines are going. Will they have to declare eminent domain for them as well? Why don’t we just sign the whole damn county over to them and let them get it on. That is what the people voted isn’t it? Can you just see thousands of workers suddenly descending upon us to start construction? That is scary. I think to be realistic one needs to think that it is going to be several more years before this gets going.. Could we be so lucky? I certainly hope the rest of my life isn’t spent waiting for the other shoe to drop.