Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Behind the 8 ball

July 22nd, 2009
Behind the 8 ball
I know I said last week it looked like I was flip-flopping on issues when I was writing these articles, but I for the life of me can’t figure out how to write bad news without sounding like a defeatist. Help me out here.
On the same day that we finished the contested hearing in Pierre, the State Supreme Court threw Ed Cable’s lawsuit out. Now get this. They said that he isn’t going to be affected any worse than anyone else when the HEC is built. Does that mean that instead of Ed dying from pollution, we all get to? So the court threw the case out. Go figure.
The last day of the hearing was Wednesday, and I’ve been told that the board adjourned after 3 hours after hearing witnesses trying to defend that Elk Point and the HEC are not in the Missouri Valley. Somebody can’t read a topography map. Besides that, they couldn’t accurately find Sioux City, Elk Point and Sioux Falls. And these are the people that are going to approve the damned permit! What a Country huh? I hope none of your geography teachers taught you that you lived in the Missouri Valley, cause evidently the valley changes course at Vermillion. I wonder if they can find Vermillion on the map.
You know folks; you should drop into Spink on Saturdays from 10-2. There are really some interesting conversations about Hyperion etc…you know the kind, so and so was talking to so and so and this is what is happening. Well, I know so and so and he is telling the truth. Well, I know so and so and he wouldn’t know the truth if it hit him in the head. I’m telling ya, you gotta come over and join in the festivities. Besides, there is news once in awhile that I hear and I check it out to see if it is true or not, and by golly more often than not, it is. You know the old saying; if you hear it from one person its gossip, but if you hear it from 2 people it’s the gospel. It’s all fun and I’ve really met some nice people. Come on over and enjoy yourself. You might even go home with a few vegetables or one of my rain barrels. It makes the time go by pretty fast.
You know how the men are; we stand around and pontificate a lot. Hyperion hasn’t got the money. Hyperion hasn’t got the backers. What are they going to do when it comes time to renew options this year? Cap and Trade will be the nail that nails the coffin shut. Hyperion has to get in line for credits because they aren’t even an oil company. The competition doesn’t want to see this thing built and they have 1000 times more money than Hyperion ever thought of. Where are they going to get all the workers? Conoco Phillips has 4000 of them tied up fixing the Port Arthur facility. See how this works ladies. We’ve got it all solved so we don’t have anything to worry about.
Speaking of pollution, just to prove that pollution won’t kill you, get your barbecue grill out and make sure it is the one that uses charcoal. Set the thing in the middle of the living room and light it. First of all you have to pour lots of fire starter on it so it will get going real good. This is called flaring. Kinda like Hyperion when they have an emergency. They call that a flaring too but it isn’t for a grill. Get these coals real hot just like what they are going to do when they start up the coal fired power plant. Close all the doors and windows and just sit back and kill yourself! DON’T DO THIS; I was just using that example of how bad the pollution will be. I believe they call that carbon monoxide poisoning. And if you don’t think the carbon monoxide is going to be potent coming out of the refinery, just think again.
I’m sure this case will be appealed to the Circuit Court and we can fight it all over again. If someone over in Iowa were to send this information to the Iowa DNR and ask them why they aren’t involved in this we can get it into federal court, then the EPA can step in then it is a whole different ball game. Now the ball is in our court and things will be different. Oh Lordy will things be different!
One just has to wonder what happened that the greed of money outweighs common sense and decency.

The Four Horsemen

July 29th, 2009
“The Four Horsemen”
I can remember when I was a kid. I was probably 12 or 13. I went to a movie on a Friday night in the middle of the summer. It was called the “Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse.”
When I went to the movie I expected it to be some kind of a western or a story of a horse. What I saw scared the bejeezus out of me. I had never heard of the four horsemen, and after that movie will never forget them. The movie took place in Argentina during WWII, and of course the horsemen represented Famine, War, Pestilence, and Death. I had to ride my bike home on the country roads about 2 miles, and I can’t remember ever being so scared. I mean it was DARK….I just knew they would come riding up over the hill and I was a goner.
This is a strange analogy about Hyperion, but to me it fits perfectly. I wrote a letter to the editor of the Sioux City Journal last week informing the people who read the paper about the Supreme Court decision on Ed Cable’s case and the fact that his case was thrown out. I warned people in Sioux City of what was coming (pestilence and death) with the air quality and “economic development”. I looked at the article the next day and there were 20 comments and they were mostly all negative remarks about my article. Right then and there I wanted to write a response apologizing for my stupidity in caring about what happens to people in the “City”. I was really amazed at the negativity the people across the river seem to have about anyone that is opposed to the refinery. I said to myself that never again will I be concerned about the people there. That old saying “be careful what you ask for, you might get it could never be a more spoken truth. That got me wondering about people in this area as well. I never see letters to editors of local papers voicing their displeasure about the refinery (other than Liz). It is almost as if everyone has resigned themselves to the fact that this is going to happen, so just accept it as fact. What is it going to take to blow your socks off and for you to get up and say something? It is never too late to protest this ugly behemoth that is being pressed upon us. They haven’t started building yet. Why do we have to sit back and say “bring it on brother!” Are you telling me to shut up you don’t want to hear this anymore? Am I beginning to sound like Chicken Little? Well let me tell you something, I’m not going to quit spouting off about the refinery. It is bad and I want to be able to convince as many people as humanly possible this is bad. Why can’t everyone see that? I’m not the smartest person in the world and I’m not a rocket scientist, but I can see that it is no good so it is just that, no good.
I wrote a long time ago about apathy. Apathy is an ugly word in my estimation. It means you have no feelings or concerns about things other people find exciting or moving. I have very strong feelings about Hyperion and I want to convince you with all my heart to take up the call and follow me. We need to stop this fester before it consumes us. I don’t know how or when but it has to happen. We absolutely cannot sit idly by and watch big earth moving equipment come in and destroy this land. It says in the old regulation on planned developments that they must clear the area of all obstructions; buildings, trees, houses whatever. The land will be laid to waste. By then it will be too late. They will have started the beginning of the end for this community. There will be nothing left. Already the scavengers are out looking for opportune spots to set up clubs, shops and whatever. They know it is coming and they want to be in on the ground floor. Have you been to a bar in Yankton lately?
We must stop them. We must find a rallying cry to band together and stop them. We can talk and joke and carry on, but I’m here to tell you if we don’t do something and soon it is all over. We will lose the impetus to carry on any legal challenges. We will lose the will take action to block them. We will become vegetables, pawns or a laughing stock. I hate to lose. I hate it with a passion. These newspaper articles are my only link with the rest of the county and country. I post these articles on my blog as well. Hopefully somebody will come to save us. And not Mighty Mouse.
As much as I hate government involvement, I’m afraid they are our only hope. Some way or another we have to get this into the federal courts so that the EPA can step in and put a halt to this silliness. What bothers me more than anything is that the commissioners know they made a mistake and will not admit it. They are afraid of the outcome so they just sit back and do nothing. The BME will vote 9-0 to allow the permit and they know that we are right but the governor has told them he wants it and he will get it. What really galls me is that the business people in this area (like Elk Point) want it because they believe it is the cow that is going to lay the golden calf and they are going to be rich beyond their wildest dreams. It won’t be my money I can tell you that.
Come on folks, stand up, join with me and be counted! We can do this!

Monday, July 13, 2009

Against All Odds

July 15th, 2009
Against All Odds
You know, last week most people in this area got six to eight inches of rain on their place. There is standing water in all the fields. What do you think would have happened if we got this much rain and the refinery was here? Well for one thing, there would have been mass flooding. You can’t tell me that 6 inches falling on 3000 acres of asphalt and concrete is not going to flood the Brule. Everyone downstream from the refinery would be flooded out if not wiped out.
The question now is would you help your neighbor? Would your neighbor help you? Why absolutely you would. What a silly question. We don’t want the refinery, but we don’t want it so bad that we wouldn’t help our neighbor in time of toil and strife. We aren’t that kind of people. The proponents of Hyperion are the same people, they just have different ideologies. I would like to think that everyone was good hardy Norwegian stock, but that’s not the case. We do have a good mix of nationalities, but we still are a caring people regardless. I think a good term for that is that we are a civilized society. We would be fighting a common enemy; the water. We would be fighting a common cause even though when things settle down it is back to us versus them. That is the kind of people we are. We weren’t raised that way and your conscious wouldn’t let you do it either.
Think of all the hardships our forefathers went through to settle this land. I know, I’m from Nebraska, but times were just as tough there. My mother was born in a sod house in the middle of the prairie in Boone County. They fought the elements just to struggle to live but they did it. Why did they do it? Against all odds they should have been done under, defeated and kicked out. But they stayed. That’s the big secret, they stayed and they battled and they won. They could have just as easily cut and run back to Wisconsin, but they didn’t. They stayed because it was their LAND! The land was their most prized possession and they were willing to die for it. Many of them did, but their sons and daughters fought on. It was a sense of pride that you owned a piece of land. The same holds true today. We are fighting for our lives here against all odds, but we are staying. We are staying because we love our land.
I was talking to a lady at the “Farmers Market” last Saturday in Spink and she said the most valuable possession she has is her land and her home and she isn’t giving up without a fight. I think we should use that as a rallying cry when we confront Hyperion. THIS IS THE MOST VALUABLE POSSESION WE HAVE; OUR HOME AND OUR LAND. I told her that in my prior life I moved 23 times in 25 years in the military. I had no attachments, no roots, and no reason to stand and fight so it really didn’t make a hill of beans to me if I stayed or not. I would have moved. No big deal. NOT NOW. This is my home, this is my land and I’ll be damned if Hyperion is going to take it from me. My forefathers didn’t fight for this land so that I could put my tail between my legs and run at the first sign of trouble. No sir he did not!
Our legal team is out in Pierre again today and tomorrow giving it one last shot, and I hope it is straight at Hyperion’s heart. That board has to understand who they are dealing with. We presented irrefutable facts. These were not figures pulled out of the air they were facts based on accurate observation and great attention to detail. Unlike the other side that just slipped something together and slopped it onto the table. We refuted practically every fact they presented as wrong. We presented these facts in such a manner that Hyperion could not reject them. If the board is fair this will never pass. I seem to be flip-flopping from week to week. First I say it’s a slam dunk, and then I say we’ve just begun the fight, they I say they are going to vote 9-0 against us. They might just surprise us and tell Governor Marion Michael Rounds to stuff it.
Ya gotta have hope. I don’t think Jenner & Block would be doing this work for us if they thought they were going to lose. And we have a long way to go. The water permit is next and more permits are after that, it is just that with this air permit they can start the process. It is often said that when your reputation and name is on the line, somehow you tend to rise above the fray and your skills really start to shine. Let’s hope that is true with Mr. Graham. I wish him Godspeed and take your hammer along to keep them awake.
“Row, Row, Row your boat gently down the stream.” “Merrily, Merrily, Merrily, Merrily life is but a dream”

Saturday, July 4, 2009

You Be the Judge

July 8th, 2009

You be the judge

Two sessions of the disputed hearing have been completed and another hearing will be held on the 15th and 16th of July with the final arguments on the 20th of August. We have made our case and now we wait for the decision of the Board of Minerals and Environment to render their decision. I am going to list many of the items that have been presented and then see if the board will agree with your decision. My gut feeling is that the board will vote unanimously to grant the permit. The governor has said this will happen and you can bet that the board is not going to disappoint him.

One of our expert witnesses was Dr. Pete Drivas. He received his Bachelors Degree and his Masters Degree from M.I.T, and his Doctors degree from Cal Tech. Those are very impressive credentials and he did us well. He testified that the Air Quality analysis was incorrect -

Because they used the wrong meteorological data,

they used inaccurate source parameters

and came to the wrong conclusions on visual impairments because their own data of up to 50% rather than the allowable 5%.

DENR and Hyperion were told to use meteorological data from Sioux Falls rather than Sioux City which was closer. They didn’t explain why Secretary Pirner chose Sioux Falls, but in my mind they used Sioux Falls because if they used Sioux City, it would put Sioux City over the allowable limits on air quality standards for future industry thus hurting the possibility of “Economical Development” with the coming of Hyperion. I have been saying forever that this will harm the development in Sioux City, but they endorsed Hyperion anyway. Be careful what you ask for, you might get it.

DENR and Hyperion had placed Elk Point and the HEC in the Sioux River Basin and he showed them that Elk Point was in the Missouri River Basin. This is just another example of the ineptitude of DENR and Hyperion. It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to know that we are in the Missouri Valley.

In his conclusion of the testimony, he stated that he could not “sugar coat” the Hyperion data. Their data was just wrong and needed to be redone using the correct data.

The next day was testimony of a refinery expert from San Diego CA. his name is Bill Powers. He listed many many items that were inadequate, inaccurate and incorrect. Cost estimates were incorrect according to industry standards. He expressed the need that the specific composition of the stock crude oil must be noted for clarification of pollutants. This held true also for pet coke and coal that will be used to power the power plant.

Speaking of credentials, at the May hearing, Mr. Graham cross examined Mr. Colin Campbell who wrote the application for Hyperion. Here are some of the questions and answers. Mr. Campbell admitted under cross examination that he has no experience with the construction or maintenance of an oil refinery. Mr. Campbell admitted that this refinery would emit more Carbon Dioxide per barrel than any other refinery in the United States; Almost 19 million tons of Carbon Dioxide per year.

Now you can see by what I have written that anybody with a lick of common sense would say that this permit should not be issued until Hyperion properly and correctly submits data that can be verified correctly and accurately. I think what they have done to this point is to do a cut and paste out of a book of some kind that shows an example of a “typical” oil refinery application.

Oh yes, there still is no environmental impact statement submitted which will show how the refinery will interact with the surrounding area both economically and environmentally. Surely there must be a reason. A reason they want to keep hidden.

Hyperion disagreed with our presentation but offered nothing in rebuttal that would change what we presented. They just argued that different people come up with different answers and let it go at that.

So now the ball is in your court. Did we present evidence adequately that shows their calculations are wrong? Did we offer solutions to their problems? Yes we did but they said they weren’t needed. Did the BME take our suggestions to heart? They listened but took no action. Did Hyperion offer to make changes? No they submitted correct data. Is this all for naught? Yes it is, but it sets ground work for the appeal. End of story.

After months of letters, pleas and presentations, the only conclusion I can come to is that there is something fishy in Denmark. I said in one of my previous articles that rational men make rational decisions and that irrational men make irrational decisions. I should have added one more. Men under the control of the governor make irrational decisions depending on what the governor wants. The governor wants an oil refinery in Union County, and by God he will get one. When you hold all the cards, you win the hand. We lose. The fat lady still hasn’t started to sing yet though. There still will be something that happens that will pull this out for us.

Why we need an EIS

July 1st, 2009

Why we need an EIS

I’ve been asked by several people this last week about why an Environmental Impact Statement is so important for opponents to Hyperion. I’ll explain it in a nutshell for all.

One of the most important reasons for having Hyperion provide us with an EIS is to show how our lives are going to change. Believe me, if this comes into being our lives are going to change, and I don’t believe it is for the better. Let’s just look at a couple of things that are going to affect us, and you decide whether or not it will be good or bad. Granted I’m going to be biased in my observation, but I believe it is a fair and just description.

First of all, imagine a sudden influx of 5,000 people. This temporary working camp will be the largest city in Union County. Hyperion said they will build temporary quarters for them. Just how big will those temporary quarters be that will house 5,000 and possibly 10,000 workers? HUGE! To put this in perspective, your normal motels have 100 rooms. Now you have to multiply that by 1000. This will cover a large area, and services will have to be provided for them.

There is a computer game out there called SIM City. The object of this game is to build a city with all the amenities. You have to build roads, bridges, streets etc. to accommodate the people that will live there.

Do you think for a minute that the roads we currently have will handle an additional influx of 10,000 people? I don’t think so. That number is just the people that will be working here. There is going to be additional traffic for delivery vehicles and vehicles that will be transporting construction materials. So that means that all the roads on the perimeter of the HEC and roads leading to and from will have to be altered to handle the added traffic and weight. Who is going to pay for this? This is just the roads.

The Union County REC is going to provide construction power and power to the temporary living quarters. Who is going to build the electrical system to handle all this? The REC is going to have to hire enough men to build this. These will be temporary workers, because when the construction is finished the number of workers won’t be needed anymore. Who is going to pay the additional wages? This will be paid by the members of the REC! Granted, the REC will bid the project so that money isn’t lost on the deal, but now we have to buy additional trucks and equipment to provision the workers.

What about the mail system. With 5000-10,000 workers they will have to build a substation to handle the influx of mail which means additional people will be hired on a temporary basis.

Now there will be additional jobs, but remember they are only temporary jobs, or will they be jobs that turn into permanent jobs? In the mean time, who pays the bills? WE DO!

Folks, if you read the Hyperion application they say they will bring millions of dollars in tax revenue and added income to the county and the state, but who gets the money? If you are outside of an incorporated city, you charge 4% tax on goods and services. That money goes to the state. How much goes to the county? ZERO! How much goes to the school district? The county sets a tax on the value of the property and this goes to the school. The township has a tax to provide them with a stipend to do road grading, mowing and weed control. I guarantee you that the state will step in and say that the school district cannot have all this money and that it must be shared by the rest of the state, so they will take most of it to redistribute it to other school districts, or put it in the state coffers to pay on the general fund. Back to my original question who gets the money? Hyperion says in their application that they expect to get the “normal” tax relief that South Dakota has for new corporate business in the state and requested the normal 98% tax relief on construction costs etc….. Hello folks do you see what is happening here? We are getting the royal shaft!

How is the influx of people going to affect the surrounding community? There will be an additional city in this county with no support facilities such as local shops. They will bombard us with their presence and how is this going to affect the balance of living between them and us? Hyperion needs to answer these questions, except they have received permission from the state not to submit any of this information. Thank you very much Secretary Pirner!

This is just the tip of the iceberg folks, I’m sure you can come up with questions of your own that Hyperion needs to answer. If they had to submit an EIS you could have an opportunity to ask those questions, but in their “Transparency” with the people in this area, they are hesitant to do this.

You don’t just suddenly have 5,000 people descend upon us and not have problems. Who is going to absorb the cost of this influx? Why should we have to bear the brunt of something we don’t want and don’t need? Are we being unreasonable in our quest for answers? Why won’t Hyperion come out and have public meetings and address these issues? I’ll tell you why. If they did this before the permit would be granted, it would never happen. Hyperion is being totally sly, devious, underhanded, cunning, elusive and deceptive in this entire process and we deserve better.

same song, second verse

Same song, second verse

Well, the Governor is at it again. He was down at the Dunes last week touting economic development in South Dakota. When he was asked about Hyperion, he said they should begin construction within 60 days. Now this guy has really got guts. We still have at least four days of testimony before the Board of Minerals and Environment, and he is saying it is a done deal. I guess if you’re the governor, and you appointed the members of the board I guess you can declare the outcome can’t you.

Just in case many of us have forgotten, we are not just protesting the refinery; we are against the way the refinery is going to be built. There are standards that industry is supposed to follow when building something and what we are saying is that the application that Hyperion is submitting does not meet the standard, and until they do their application should be denied.

One of the main sticking points in all of this is that Hyperion must submit an environmental impact statement to show everyone how they will be affected not only environmentally, but economically as well, and Hyperion refuses to do this. One of the strong points that Hyperion has been touting since their arrival has been that they will be “transparent.” Well, if they are so transparent why won’t they tell us the ramifications of what life will be like when the refinery is finished? If they want to be a good neighbor, tell us what you are going to do and how you are going to do it. Tell us what we can expect during the 5 years it is going to take to build this thing. Tell us how this will affect local towns, industries and life in general. What are they afraid of?

Another point that we keep hammering away at is the Clean Air Act revision of 1990. If this refinery comes to being, how will it affect local industries that may want to expand their operation? The National Air Ambient Quality program says that you can only have “X” amount of pollutants that are harmful to health in the air and if you exceed that amount you are not allowed to build unless you take measures to control those emissions. That isn’t too hard to understand, but you take the amount of pollution emitted by Port Neal and the amount that will be emitted by the refinery and their power plant and you have exceeded the limit. This will drastically reduce our ability to have “economic development” that Sioux City is bragging about when the refinery comes in. Any company that wants to build will have to take expensive measures to ensure they stay under the limit. It also drastically reduces our health and well-being for the air that we must breathe. Don’t forget that Hyperion has admitted under oath that they will emit over 19 MILLION TONS of just carbon dioxide, not to mention 8,000 tons of particulate matter. That just sounds hideous to me. And they think we should be happy to have them in our midst? One can’t be serious to think that this will be good for our community. Either that or people are just plain ignorant and/or are willing to sacrifice their health for jobs. Now that is really dumb.

This leads me to another topic – jobs. I know I’m beginning to sound like a broken record, but one cannot be serious thinking that this refinery is going to bring us jobs. Granted, there will be jobs, but they will be bringing in their own people for these key positions, and that includes the 4,000 to 5,000 temporary jobs. Why would anyone think they will take the time to train someone for a job when they already have said they are going to bring in 80% of the jobs that will be open. Haven’t you heard the term wish in one hand and poop in the other and see which one fills up first? Do people honestly think there will be permanent jobs when this is all done? I do wish people would deal with reality. Has Hyperion ever come out and said exactly what and how many jobs will be filled locally? They put out a pamphlet once saying what types of jobs will be necessary to run the refinery, but never have they said specifically how many there will be. I don’t call 300 jobs a godsend. We have call centers opening up in North Sioux City that hire that many for crying out loud. How many people do you know that are planning 5 years in the future for a job that pays what they are making now? I’m completely dumbfounded with the dreams for a better life that people think Hyperion is going to be bringing to us. This isn’t our savior folks.

The final 4 days of the contested hearing started yesterday. This is our turn to put expert witnesses on the stand to show just how inept Hyperion is at this business. It is also going to show that the state does not have anyone qualified to monitor their development and operation. For the life of me, I cannot understand how anyone in their right mind could allow this permit to happen. It must take some powerful arm twisting on the part of the Governor to allow this, and you know he has already said construction could start within 60 days. We have to prove to the governor and the people of this state that we have the resolve not to let this happen. Your support is vital to this happening. I know there are many of you that are against this happening but are keeping it to yourselves. Now is the time for you to open up and tell everyone that this is not good for us and join in our fight to keep this from happening.