Friday, October 24, 2008

water, water everywhere

October 29th, 2008
Water, water, everywhere,
Water, water, everywhere, And all the boards did shrink; Water, water, everywhere, Nor any drop to drink.
The above ditty comes from “The Rime of the Ancient Mariner,” and seems to fit this article. I had to read that when I was in high school and for some reason it stuck.
At times, I think my mind must be warped, because sometimes I just don’t understand things that happen. I was at the board meeting for Clay Rural Water on the 23rd for the discussion on the correspondence from Hyperion about Clay Rural Water providing construction of a water facility for the refinery. This was the second meeting about this because after public input two weeks ago the Board decided to ask Hyperion for more information. CRWS asked several questions and Hyperion responded to each of them. What I thought was fascinating is the fact that Hyperion expects CRWS to build the system on their money and Hyperion will pay them back over the course of 15-25 years on a monthly basis by adding the amount to their monthly billing. I said at the meeting then and I’ll repeat it now. That is the most brazen act of business I have ever seen. How could Hyperion have the audacity to ask someone to foot the bill for construction of something that is going to cost in the neighborhood of $30-$40 million dollars and they will pay them back over the course of 15-25 years. Hyperion surely must think we are a bunch of country bumpkins to think we would fall for something like that. But then, maybe they were serious. Who is to say that Hyperion will even be refining 15 years from now? Better yet, Hyperion still to this day has not said that they are coming to Union County. We are still just a finalist.
I called Mr. Merrigan the next morning and asked him what the cost was to build the Wynstone project, and if they got any grants, loans or whatever to build that. He replied that the project cost $5,631,000 and that they received $912,000 in grants and they took out a loan for $4,631,000 and that the members in Wynstone contributed $170,000 as their portion of the hookup fees. This project only serves 385 units. Can you imagine what the cost of 12 wells pumping up to 15 million gallons of water a day is? I said the cost of just the engineering study must be over $1 million dollars. He assured me that CRWS must have all money up front before a single spade goes into the ground. Then I asked about whether or not CRWS had any idea of the financial status of Hyperion. He replied that he did not know, so I emailed him a copy of what I was able to find about Hyperion. This information is over a year old, but is the latest that I had available. The net worth of the company is $31 million according to Dun and Bradstreet. The parent company of Hyperion is worth $16 million. After talking with Mr. Merrigan it suddenly occurred to me that nobody or no one has ever asked for a financial statement from Hyperion. I don’t know about you, but I cannot understand how anyone could propose to do business with someone and not have a financial portfolio available for them to look at.
If you will remember back to just before the primary election, someone from CNN News asked Mayor Isabelle Trobough from Elk Point whether or not Hyperion could build this refinery, and Mayor Trobough was quoted that Mr. Huddleston assured her in a private conversation that he had the money. I guess that satisfied everyone concerned because nobody has ever questioned that since. I am not questioning it now. What I am questioning is the fact that through this whole process everyone has assumed that since a company called Hyperion Resources does exist and they are from Texas, then they must have money. (Here it comes folks) - What a load of crap! Is this how we do business in South Dakota?
The other thing that I found interesting was that Hyperion expects CRWS to obtain all the necessary options and rights of way for the pipelines to get the water to the refinery. If they can’t get a right of way, then it is Hyperion’s plan to put the pipeline in the ditches of the county and state roads right of way. Well, I did some checking because this doesn’t seem right and what I found out is that they might not have a problem with the ditches on the state and county roads, but where the townships have jurisdiction they might have a problem. I cannot imagine Brule and Spink townships granting a right of way for CRWS to put a pipeline in the ditches. This leads us back to - you guessed it - Eminent Domain.
Do you see where this is leading? This Hyperion issue is by no means a slam dunk for Hyperion. If we don’t want the refinery here, we are going to have to fight them every inch of the way. If it isn’t water, then it is power. If not those two issues it will be something else. Hyperion will outsource the whole damn thing and pretty soon you will have a refinery in operation and Hyperion won’t have lifted a hammer. What a deal!
The most profound statement that anyone from the public made at the directors meeting on the 23rd was from Elsa Englund. She said “if you allow this to happen (referring to the water plant), Hyperion will become a voting member of the CRWS, and then all the workers will become members. They will vote themselves on the board and then pretty soon they will control the board and you won’t have anything to say about what or what they don’t do. Now those are words to think about. If they can do that to the CRWS they can do this to the whole county. The HEC will be the biggest town in Union County and you know what they say, “the squeaky wheel gets the grease.”

A long way to go and a short time to get there

October 21st, 2008
“We’ve got a long way to go, and a short time to get there.”
“I’ve got a long way to go and a short time to get there” was a Jerry Reed song from the movie “Smokey and the Bandit.”I can’t help but think of this song every time I see something in the paper that tells me that Hyperion is getting closer and closer to getting its permit to build a refinery. The way things are going economically I think it is going to be hard for Hyperion to get financing and that is going to hold them up for a long time. Time is one thing they don’t have. Unless they are totally stupid, they have to have things underway before the options run out or the price of land will go through the roof.
People ask me all the time why I am so strongly opposed to the refinery. This is going to bring untold wealth to this region. We will have jobs, low gas, and good neighbors. I give them one short simple answer. That damned thing is gonna kill me. That is a fact pure and simple. When you stop and think about what you have been reading these last few months it boggles your mind. Here is an oil company coming into our home and purposely trying to kill me and you want me to sit back and say “Drill Baby Drill!” “Refine Baby Refine” is going to put to overload toxic chemicals into the air, I’m going to breathe this crap and I’m going to die. How simple is that? It’s like when I was flying combat missions over Viet Nam and they would flood the sky with missiles and antiaircraft shells. We would say it only takes one to kill ya.
You know this can’t be a good deal when there are organizations all over the United States and Canada that are joining in the fracas. These people aren’t Johnny do-gooders. These are people who actually care about what is happening to our lives and our climate. Many of them know firsthand the death and destruction that comes with refineries. If you look at the volumes and volumes of books that are written just on controlling the emissions from these refineries you know it can’t be good.
I know there are two certain things that happen in life and I want to keep the second one from happening as long as possible, but case histories will show that people’s health deteriorates when they live next to a refinery. It’s just a fact of life that there are increase numbers of cancer, diseases like asthma, emphysema, permanent lung damage, neurological problems, and my favorite – premature death. If I’m going to die, I want it to do it the old fashioned way; old and in bed. I absolutely don’t want it to be premature.
If somebody (in this case Hyperion Resource) is going to build a refinery I am going to make sure they get it right. Every nut bolt and screw is going to be done exactly as planned or there will be hell to pay. I still am of the belief they have no intention of coming here, but that picture is getting kinda faded. Here’s what blows my mind. The governor is saying “We know you’re going to pollute, but keep it low. He is going to cook the books. He has I’m sure given directions to DENR that no matter what happens, they will be approved. I would like to be in Pierre just seeing how Hyperion is interacting with the states daily operation when it comes to working on their application. Hyperion must really have a slick PR company working for them. They are submitting press releases on things that have to be done anyway; making it look as if it is their idea to begin with just “to give the people an opportunity.” Hyperion has asked for a public hearing on the permit to allow “the people” an opportunity to have a voice in the process. Again, that is a load of crap. As soon as someone submits a protest, the application automatically goes to a public hearing. That is state law. Now here is where Hyperion really has some guts. They submitted their own timing plan on how and when this is going to be done. It was in the Argus Leader on the 16th of October. I called Kyrik out at DENR and asked him if this was acceptable. He said they can submit a timing plan if they want to, to help speed up the process. I asked if DENR was going to set the hearing to be heard in this area or in Pierre. He said it will probably be in Pierre. I mentioned to him that the people in Union County and surrounding area really need to be able to attend this and why can’t it be in Vermillion or Elk Point. He said that may be a possibility. That is slick folks!
Do you remember a few months ago when the Akron Hometowner added a book to the reference library in Akron? It is a bound book titled “Oil Refinery Permits.” You need to go and read it just for the sake of trying to navigate through all the gobbledygook that’s in there. I wish I were a scientist so that I can understand it, but in laymen’s terms there are several items that are easy to understand and when I read them I have to sit back and try to figure out why Hyperion picked this area to screw all these people. This book quotes chapter and verse how and what Hyperion has to do to obtain a permit to operate and better yet, instructions to us on how to stop them. And stop them we must.
We must write letters to the DENR questioning their operation. Don’t make statements like “they are ruining our land and we want them to leave.” DENR won’t even look at that. The same holds true for sending a letter supporting or not supporting the venture. DENR won’t even look at it. Ask them a question about the application process concerning air quality and they will answer. They are required by state law to answer each and every letter.

Tell me it ain't so John

October 15th, 2008
Tell me it ain’t so John!

It is very hard to concentrate for an article this week with all the economic turmoil that is going on. However, I feel it is my duty to complain about our congressmen. With the exception of Senator Johnson and Congresswoman Stanlin, Senator Thune and Senator Grassley ought to be taken out behind the woodshed and have their butts beat. I find it unconscionable that in passing the $700 billion dollar bailout bill that they would have the audacity to vote for the bailout with the rider in it giving oil companies a 50% tax credit for building oil refineries. That makes me want to throw up. I don’t care if one is for or against the Hyperion refinery that is without a doubt the vilest thing I have ever heard of. Since Hyperion Resources is not actually an oil refinery do they get the credits? You bet they do. I bet they popped the champagne corks on this one. Companies like Exxon/Mobile that made profits of over $11 billion in the second quarter of this year getting a 50% tax credit to build a refinery is absolutely nutty. People and companies are going bankrupt. People are being kicked out of their homes. People are losing their jobs and congress passes a bailout bill with this tax credit in it. I have to quote my mother in this next sentence. “It makes me so mad I could spit.” That is the kindest thing I can say about congress’s actions. Senator Grassley and Senator Thune owe the people of this community an apology for their actions last week. How could they possibly vote for this bailout bill knowing that the oil rider was in there? I’m quoting from the Sioux Falls Argus Leader now. “The clean energy incentives and various energy tax breaks first were proposed by Senate Finance Committee chairman Max Baucus, D-Mont., and ranking member Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa. Grassley's constituents in Sioux City and in Iowa towns just east of the planned refinery could benefit from the project and the thousands of jobs it would create.” "The Senate had been kicking this around for a long time," said Tyson Slocum of Public Citizen, a Washington-based public interest group. ( the Internal bailout bill). The Revenue Service released its regulations in September, and since the tax credits were about to expire - before anyone used them - the tax break was added to the refinery credit, which now expires in 2014, could cost taxpayers $894 million over 10 years, according to the Congressional Budget Office."Building or expanding a refinery to handle tar sands won't be made or broken by U.S. tax law," Slocum said. "It will all depend on market conditions and the permitting process."The extension calls for a 50 percent tax reduction for refineries built or expanded to increase by 5 percent or more their refining capacity of tar sands or oil shale crude.
Preston Phillips, Hyperion's Dallas-based project executive, said in July that getting an air permit from the state was critical to success in securing financing. The state Department of Environment and Natural Resources approved Hyperion's draft air permit Sept. 11 and extended the public comment period to Nov. 14. "It's amazing what you can slide into an emergency bill, completely unrelated to the bailout," said Denny Larson, director of the San Francisco-based Refinery Reform Campaign. "It's bad policy. It didn't get well thought-out or well debated.""It just goes to show that special interests still have a lot of clout in Washington," said Jason Quam, an Elk Point native and head of Citizens Opposed to Oil Production.
Excluding expansions, the only new oil refinery projects planned in the U.S. - and the first since 1976 - are Hyperion and Arizona Clean Fuels, an independent refinery that has been in the works since 1999 about 45 miles east of Yuma, Ariz. Hyperion hopes to begin construction on its 3,800-acre site in 2011 and would begin refining in 2014.Arizona Clean Fuels, a $3 billion project that plans to refine 150,000 barrels of tar sands crude a day, received its air permit in 2006. Barring final hurdles, construction could begin in 2009, said company spokesman Ian Calkins.
Officials from both companies said the refineries would use the newest technologies to minimize effects on the environment.
Reach Thom Gabrukiewicz at 331-2320.
I’ll bet Preston’s kinky hair went straight when he heard about the bail out.
PIERRE – The state Department of Environment and Natural Resources says a hearing will be held on a draft air quality permit for Hyperion Resources proposed $10 billion Union County oil refinery. In a release, the department says Hyperion itself petitioned this week for the contested case hearing. According to the agency, Hyperion’s petition says a contested case hearing would be in the public interest and provide a forum for the board to resolve legitimate questions that might be raised by interested parties. No hearing date was listed. This is the same kind of sham that Hyperion pulled when it called for an election after the county commissioners passed their application. Somebody is doing a lot of PR overtime.The DENR says the comment period on the draft permit was extended last week. The agency says it plans to take comments through Nov. 14 and make a decision on the permit within 30 days.
I think everyone that reads this article should write a letter to Senator Thune and Senator Grassley and demand an apology for their actions last week. They acted like puppy dogs. George says poop, and they said how high.

When push comes to shove

October 8th, 2008
When Push comes to Shove

This might seem like a strange title for this week’s article, but I always get defensive when I get backed into a corner. I get even more defensive when I get the distinct feeling that I’m right and everyone else is wrong. This week is one of those weeks.
There was an article in the Argus Leader about 10 days ago that I thought would garner a lot of attention, but I heard practically nothing. That bothers me. The title of the article, which was on the front page by the way, was “Refinery’s effect on air quality debated.” In essence what it was saying is that Hyperion’s refinery will take up such a big percentage of the “GOOD” air in the Union County area that there won’t be any left for the follow on industries, or for any other industry for that matter. Now what is wrong with that statement?
For one thing, it meant to me that the air will be polluted to the maximum allowable by the EPA (our friend in government). This is about the most asinine thing I’ve ever seen in my life, and for the life of me I do not understand how or why this is being allowed to happen. This issue isn’t about fueling the economy; it is pure and simple greed. You’ll never convince me otherwise. Of all the places in the United States and Canada this is the one place where the land, water, and employment are the cheapest, otherwise why wouldn’t Hyperion just let the pipeline that is going to Port Arthur handle it. You could save $10 Billion dollars. They already have a refinery and are expanding to handle 400,000 bbl a day. Don’t give me the private enterprise theory crap either. (the word “stuff” used to be my favorite word, but I think ”crap” is getting ready to take its place)
The air quality in Union County and therefore the entire tri-state area is so pristine that it is allowing Hyperion come in and pollutes the air and it still will be below the maximum allowable by the EPA. Now you know that where there is smoke there is fire. Here is the fire. When the ancillary industries start coming into the area to manufacture the byproduct of the sludge left from the refining of the tar sands, there isn’t enough clean air left. Hyperion has used their allotment plus anything else.
Let me quote Kyrik Rombough, the state DENR engineering director. He is explaining what incremental pollution is. Rombough linked increments to someone cooking Thanksgiving dinner. People in the kitchen would smell the turkey roasting first, while the smell would take longer to reach people in other rooms. Pollutants would be concentrated at the Hyperion site but would lessen farther from the refinery. There it is in a nutshell folks. Those of us close to the refinery are going to get sick first but eventually everyone will be succumbed to the pollution. Isn’t that just the most comforting statement you’ve ever heard? Talk about wanting to be a NIMBY! This refinery is great for the state of South Dakota because only the health of the people surrounding the refinery is going to be affected. By the time it reaches everyone else, it will be so diluted that it won’t make a difference. Governor Rounds was right. Smelling the exhaust from the automobiles in Sioux Falls will be less than what you will have 5 miles from the refinery. Jeez are we ever stoopid. Is this one of those situations where we are to sacrifice for the common good? That’s a load of crap. There is a statement in the bible by Jesus that there is no greater love than for a man to lay down his life to save another. Is this a case of “Tough love?” Maybe it is just me being a whole lot bitter. Has everyone seen the Verizon commercial about the “dead zone?” let’s rename the refinery section and a 10 mile radius of the refinery the dead zone.
When the Argus interviewed business leaders in the area around Elk Point, the President of the Elk Point city council and a member of the Elk Point Economic Development Corp Joyce Bortcheller said “I don’t think it’s an issue.” Although if you remember before the election, Joyce was interviewed on TV and she said then – “if I lived closer to the refinery, I would probably be opposed to it.” Talk about being a NIMBY. I think she is a charter member. If the truth were know, if you were to interview the residents of Dakota Dunes, North Sioux City, and McCook Lake you would get the same answer.
Let me end this article on a good note. There was a large response from the public on the closing date for the public comments for the Clean Air Permit. The state DENR has extended the deadline to the 14th of November. Keep up the good work folks, maybe the pen is mightier than the sword.