Monday, June 15, 2009

Is the Deck Stacked

June 3rd, 2009
Is the deck stacked?
The state of South Dakota DENR and the Governor has decided that the Hyperion refinery is coming to Union County, and there isn’t a damned thing we can do about it. They have drawn the line in the ground and have said it is going to happen.
If one were to read a transcript of the events that happened at the contested hearing last week in Pierre for the refinery, you would know we are playing against a stacked deck. Before the first party got to testify, the DENR said the board should approve issuance of an air permit and they were under no obligation to demand an environmental impact statement. Kind of makes one wonder doesn’t it?
It makes me wonder just what DENR is expecting us to do. I mean here we are getting ready for 2 months of testimony on the pros and cons of a refinery in South Dakota and DENR just steps up and says “We are going to approve the permit regardless of what goes on here.” why even bother to go through the process if their minds are already made up. The Governor does wield power doesn’t he? He has given his marching orders to DENR and it is a done deal.
It looks from reading excerpts of the hearing that Hyperion shot themselves in the foot with having a company like RTP submit the request for the air permit. When the guy who wrote the application admits under oath that he has never worked on a project like this and has no experience or expertise in this area, things should have come to a halt at that point. We destroyed any credibility he might have had when he admitted he didn’t have any experience. In fact, it looks to me like our lawyers pretty much made mincemeat of the whole process. Undaunted, the Board of Minerals and Environment sided with DENR and voted that an Environmental Impact Statement is not required. Not only did they vote that an EIS was not required they voted along with DENR to narrow the scope of the hearing to just “emitted” pollutants. This wasn’t a split decision, it was unanimous. That is an ominous sign if there ever was one. This is totally unacceptable in my mind, but then I’m not on the BME. Common logic should tell the BME that we need to look closely at the whole picture, but then again we are playing against a “stacked deck.” I am of the firm conviction that the governor intends to leave office with the refinery as his legacy to his beloved state regardless of what we say.
Do you ever get the feeling that we are really insignificant in this whole process? Many people gave very well researched testimony against the refinery and the BME looked like they were more interested in where their next meal was coming from than our welfare. I just don’t understand what it is that makes Pierre (DENR) think this is such a good deal. What part of “this is not good” don’t they understand? What is it going to take to get their attention on this? We know this is not good for the community and the state, but everything we say is falling on deaf ears. And why is this? What ever happened to looking out for the health and welfare of its citizens?
You know, there is something in this whole process that Sioux City and the surrounding area need to watch out for, and that is called National Ambient Air Quality Standard. This was brought out in the first part of the contested hearing, but evidently our friends in Iowa overlooked it. Basically what it says is that there is a ceiling on the amount of pollution that can be emitted in an area of the country. So for the sake of argument, let’s say that that limit is 80%. Hyperion is building in an area of virtually no pollution, so when they get into operation or even start construction for that matter, they will reach a pollution level of 70% which is not an unreasonable standard, however that means that if there is an industry that wants to start up in Sioux City, if it emits a level of more than 10% it cannot be built. Period. So the so called economic development in Sioux City comes to a virtual standstill because of their friendly neighbor “Hyperion.” Do you think they have taken this into consideration? I don’t think so. This goes not only for Sioux City, but everyone within 50 miles. Think of the industries that are already here such as Load King, Aaladin, Sioux Steam, Alkota. If they wanted to expand their industry, sorry Charlie, the air is full – can’t do it.
The questions we have been asking for the last two years are all questions that should have been asked by the planning and zoning and the county commissioners before they approved this stupid application. I guess Hyperion knows what they are doing don’t they. They have the P&Z and the commissioners eating out of their hand. Pun intended again, if they had asked these questions do you think the outcome would have been the same? I don’t think so.
So where do we go from here? Jenner and Block are laying a solid foundation for appeal to the circuit court and when this gets to the federal level, and then the EPA will step in and demand an EIS. This isn’t over by a long shot. We have some big obstacles to overcome, but we shall prevail. Doug Sez!


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