Thursday, February 19, 2009

Hyperion Public Hearing Date

This is my story and I'm sticking to it. I had a lapse in judgement the last couple of weeks regarding my personal involvement with the opposition to the Hyperion Refinery. I felt like I was burned out and i was speaking to the wall about the pitfalls of the proposed refinery and couldn't see that i was doing any good and decided i needed a rest.

This is the rest of the story! The State of South Dakota board of Water and Minerals is going to have a contested hearing on the Hyperion Air Permit in Pierre in the middle of May and continuing in the middle of June '09. Before the contested hearing, there will be a public hearing in Elk Point SD on the 15th and 16th of April to hear the local citizens concerns about the Refinery. This will be the only opportunity that local people will have to express their feelings about the air quality permit that will/will not be issued after the contested hearing.

Just to give you a little history lesson about why we are even having this hearing, you have to go back to the beginning and a man named Jay Vincent. According to an article in the Sioux City Journal by Michelle Linck, Jay Vincent works for a company called Saint Consulting Group, of Hingham, Mass., a company that specializes in helping big companies keep competitors out of their markets and in advancing the cause of big projects such as the refinery, by defeating grassroots efforts like refinery opponents Save Union County.

Jay Vincent works out of a regional office in Chicago. Michelle references a Forbes Magazine article by Emily Lambert called "Nimby Wars" where it details the tactics used by people like Jay Vincent. Jay gathers information such as political affiliations, environmental stands, even what newspapers they read and compile this information into a database.

These people go "undercover" and infiltrate communities riling up neighbors, turning them against a group or company, quietly offering legal advice as well as tips on how to organize and turn up political pressure. Saint's workers often use "fake names." Saint stirs up political action but not with "facts or statistics." Hyperion hired Saint to knock on as many doors in the county as possible and tailor their message to specific audiences.

Now that you have all the background history, lets put facts to paper. When Union County voted on the Hyperion project, all the districts in the northern half of the county ande around the proposed area for the refinery either split 50/50 or were heavily against the project. Dakota Dunes which is 30 miles away voted 91% in favor of the project. there are 2300 residents in Dakota Dunes. Guess what was the swing in the election. The total vote percentage for the entire county was 52-48% in favor of the refinery. I guess you can say that Saint did its job.

Here is what really bothers me. The tactics used by Hyperion to sway public opinion might be normal business practices elsewhere, but i don't believe this is normal for Union County. Another thing I would like to know is if the Elk Point Development Committee was aware of or used any of these tactics to help sway opinion of the refinery. If they did, people should demand an apology and the committee should disband. This is an unconsionable act of business, and should not be condoned. It is my fervent belief that everyone who reads this blog should do their utmost to boycott the businesses in Elk Point and do their best to encourage everyone they know to do the same. It is a sad day when tactics like this are used to try to make the "Big Dollar" in their lives.


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