Monday, February 23, 2009

More on Big Stone II and Hyperion

Thanks for the Support

I got many, many phone calls and emails urging me not to quit writing my weekly letters. More than one reminded me of the article I wrote a couple of weeks ago, “If not me, who…if not now, when?” that I was deserting everyone with only 2 months to go before the public hearing on the refinery. I have to admit they were correct. I apologize, and promise I will keep up the good fight.
That said, for those of you that read the Sioux Falls Argus Leader, there was an article in there last Friday that should have made your ears perk up. The EPA had previously objected to the construction permit for Big Stone II power plant near Milbank, SD. They objected to the fact that the pollution controls were not stringent enough to curb pollution from the plant. Clean Water Action reported that this would be the nail in the coffin for the plant, but the state DENR said this was just a bump in the road in the application process. You know, sometimes I get the feeling that the state DENR is not only inept, they are totally incompetent. Somewhere in the state codified laws there must be something that says these state agencies are here to protect us. I keep getting this sinking feeling that the state agencies like DENR are in place to be an aid to BIG Business, and the hell with the people that live here. Do you feel the same way? It is so damned frustrating to see the DENR putting up roadblocks every step of the way. It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to see that this should be the other way around. Is this the governor’s way of getting his agenda through? If it is, I think the governor should step back and ask himself why he was elected to that position.
Here is a kicker for you. Senator Thune jumped in and supported the BSII project. "If the EPA were to begin regulating carbon dioxide emissions under the Clean Air Act, electricity generation would become far more expensive and energy consumers would be left to pay the price," Thune said. "At a time when people in South Dakota and across the nation have either lost their jobs or fear losing them in the future, the EPA is potentially moving toward costly policy changes in an industry that employs many and provides a necessary service at a low cost.”
Are you ready for this??? What a load of crap. He is a big supporter of Hyperion and now BSII. I just don’t get it. It seems like we elect people to congress and they start holding their hand out. I am a very conservative Republican, but I’m getting sick and tired of our congress people acting irresponsibly. Senator Johnson doesn’t even answer the question, and he is from Vermillion. You would think he would be all over this like ugly on a stick, but he sits silent and says nothing. Don’t even take the time to write to Stephanie. It falls on deaf ears. What is it with our elected officials that they won’t take a stand on something? Are they so worried about getting reelected that they won’t make a statement for fear of not getting some more money for their reelection campaign? Maybe it is my attitude when I send these letters. Maybe I should be begging them to stop this instead of trying logic and understanding. It seems that the mere fact that what Hyperion is trying to do is not within the law does not apply here.
Dan Sharp is a spokesman for BSII. He is a real “winner.” Look what he has to say about the power plant."If the EPA were to begin regulating carbon dioxide emissions under the Clean Air Act, electricity
generation would become far more expensive and energy consumers would be left to pay the price," Thune said. "At a time when people in South Dakota and across the nation have either lost their jobs or fear losing them in the future, the EPA is potentially moving toward costly policy changes in an industry that employs many and provides a necessary service at a low cost.
Why don’t we just roll over and stick our feet in the air and say “Oh Hell, just do what you want.” We will be so grateful to get anything.
I hate being so cynical but for the life of me I do not understand why. I don’t understand why government can’t look out for our best interest instead of holding their hands out for gratitude’s. I don’t understand why companies wouldn’t take the extra effort to build things with the safety of the people as their foremost goal.
A number of people are concerned that with all the money being thrown around for the stimulus package that Hyperion might just get the money to build the refinery. That is not going to happen. There is money out there for refineries, but Hyperion must get in line behind the Big Boys. Exxon Mobile, BP, Shell, Conoco Phillips are all ahead of Hyperion. The big boys want money for improvements and upgrades. They already have people employed and they are already in operation. Hyperion is still working on the Wing and a Prayer theory. So rest easy. Remember Doug Sez it ain’t gonna happen.

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.

Monday, February 2, 2009

If Not Me, Who? If Not Now, When?

If not Me, who? If not now When?
The title of my article this week should be a rallying cry for everyone that is against the Hyperion Oil Refinery.
If we don’t protest this refinery, it will come. If we don’t protest this refinery now, when will we do it? After it is already approved to be built? By then it will be too late.
I’m here to tell you if there is a way for Hyperion to come in here and have a refinery built, and we don’t make a concerted effort to stop this, it will be done. I have to believe in my heart that this will never happen, but until we hear otherwise we have to presume that this is going to happen. We cannot let up for one minute or they will get the upper hand and it will be a done deal. There is something to the old saying, prepare for the worst and hope for the best. Hoping and wishing is not going to solve our problem. I am a reasonable, intelligent person who can see if something isn’t done now, it will set the standard and we will never get it done. They will set the standard. Future building projects will point to what is being done now and say,” they did it, why can’t I?” I don’t think it is unreasonable for us to ask the government to protect our interests, and I don’t think it is unreasonable for us to ask whoever is building to protect our interests. I don’t think it is unreasonable for us to say you are taking advantage of our position and that is unfair. It is time to draw a line in the sand. Lead, follow, or get out of my way because this has to be stopped, but it is going to take a collective effort to do this.
"The silence we keep in the face of evil is evil. Martin Niemoller is clear about it: 'In Germany they came first for the Communists and I didn't speak up because I wasn't a Communist. Then they came for the Jews and I didn't speak up because I wasn't a Jew. Then, they came for the trade unionists and I didn't speak up because I didn't belong to a union. Then they came for me--and there was nobody left to speak up.' For your own sake, if nothing else, speak up." (Joan Chittister, The Monastic Way, January 2000)
A perfect example of influence is being done even as you read this letter. I wrote about the Big Stone II power plant being stopped by the EPA last week. If you read the papers, (and I read them all) you will see that the state of SD, Otter Tail Power and their investors say this is just a small bump in the road. It is merely clarification of the application that EPA is questioning and by no means is it the end of the power plant. There was an editorial by the publisher of the Argus Leader in last Thursday’s paper that everyone needs to read. The editorial says that we need this power plant if for no other reason than we need the transmission lines for access to the eastern markets for the power created by the windmills. Oh come on now!
I can assure you folks, that Clean Water Action, and the Sierra club are not against progress. They are not against creating new sources of power for the American people. What they are against is Dirty Power. They are against anything that will pollute the environment and harm you. They are against building power plants just for the sake of building a power plant. But there has to be constraint on the part of the company that insists on building something that is harmful to the air, water and land. It is not unreasonable to us to ask that great care be taken to ensure our safety. If it costs twice what they originally planned on spending for the project, so what? Build it correctly. I don’t think it is unreasonable on the part of the environmental protest to ask that. Do you? We are not a bunch of tree hugging whacko jacko’s out here protesting for the sake of stopping progress. We are here because we believe that if this is going to be done it must be done safely. We aren’t going to get a second chance.
How many of you have written letters to our district congressmen or our senators and congresswoman. How many of you have written letters to the local newspapers informing them about the disadvantages of an oil refinery in our area. People, I implore you to get active on this situation. Time is not on our side on this issue. We cannot sit back and say “With the price of oil down below $40 there is no way they can make money.” “With the economy in the toilet there is no way they can afford to build a refinery.” With companies going broke there is no way they can do this.” Suddenly one morning we wake up and lo and behold there is a refinery here. Let me pass on some advice a friend of mine told me once. I was living in Dallas Texas, and my friend was building a high rise office building. There were vacant office buildings all over Dallas and here he was building an office building. He told me that it was better to build on 1985 dollars and let it sit empty for 5 years than to build it on 1990 dollars when space is needed. The money saved will pay for itself in 5 years. Hyperion’s estimate on what it is going to cost for this refinery is on 2007 dollars. Actual cost is going to be much higher. You say they can’t afford it. Exxon Mobil’s profit last quarter was $46 Billion. You say they can’t afford it? Let’s start dealing with reality here folks. They can afford it.