Monday, June 15, 2009

One if by land, Two if by sea

June 17th, 2009
One if by land, Two if by Sea
The time for being nice is about over with this Hyperion issue. We have been to meeting after meeting, hearing after hearing and still the state will not listen to what we have to say. Governor Rounds is bound and determined that this refinery will happen. This refinery is going to be his legacy to the people of South Dakota and he is going to do everything in his power to see this through. I think he wants this refinery more than Hyperion does. This is David against Goliath if ever there was one. We are less than 500 people fighting the rest of the state. Has anyone ever wondered why we are doing this? Do you wonder why we bother? We do it because we care.
We MUST stop this silliness. This is past the point of reason. Reasonable men and women make reasonable decisions. Irrational men and women make irrational decisions and it is my firm conviction that we are being governed by irrational people. Why would anyone in their right mind believe that this oil refinery will be good for the people and the economy of South Dakota? My God man, there will be over 13 million tons of carbon dioxide spewing into the air each year. I can’t even comprehend 13 million tons. Can you? That’s just the carbon dioxide. Think about all the rest of it, Thousands of tons of pollutants. Who in their right mind would think this is a good deal?
We’ve got some of the best environmental lawyers in the country standing up and fighting for us. It is time we showed them some support. We need to send them letters telling them how much we appreciate their efforts. Their address is
Jenner and Block
330 N. Wabash AvenueChicago, IL 60611-7603
It’s the least we can do for them. They didn’t have to do this, but they saw an injustice being done and came to our aid. They need to know we are concerned and depend so much on their concerted efforts to act on our behalf. Without their help this would not even happen. The bad thing about this hearing is that it isn’t a trial by a jury of our peers; it is a hearing before a puppet of the governor. We must make our case known, and they are the only ones who can do this. Please, please let them know you care. They know this is going to be a tough row to hoe, but they are giving their best, and that is all we can ask of them. If the clean air permit is approved they are willing to fight this through the appeals until someone finally sees it our way. They know this is wrong and are willing to go the distance to help us. Please help them.
What really gets my goat is that people even as close as Sioux Falls and Sioux City don’t have a clue what we are fighting for down here. They think “Oh well, what’s an oil refinery?” You know, we aren’t the NIMBY’s, the rest of the state of South Dakota are NIMBY’s. Do the people in Sioux Falls worry about smog? Heck no. people out in Rapid City could care even less. Do the rest of the people in the state care about our situation? I don’t think they give a damn. I cannot imagine what is going to happen if this behemoth is put into production. And the refinery is just the tip of the iceberg. There will be many companies that will follow that will be even filthier than the refinery. This place will look like the old pictures we used to see about the industrial revolution. Pallor and smoke will be everywhere.
There is a local newsletter circulating that if you get a chance you need to read. It is called “Other Options.” The newsletter is published by Pam Kadous. There are articles this week written by Jim Heisinger from Vermillion, Liz Merrigan from Spink, Kevin Kelley from Spink, Linda Scarman from Spink, Norma Wilson and James Hoflemeyer from Vermillion. These folks have written poignant articles about the contested hearing, what life used to be like around here and what life can be like if we embrace alternative lifestyles. You need to read these and take them to heart because they speak the truth. Truth is a luxury item lately. Hyperion is telling anything but the truth, and people believe them hook, line and sinker. Folks, I’m telling you that this is not going to be a good deal for us. Our way of life is going to change forever if this thing goes through and it won’t be good.
There is an old saying “be careful what you ask for, you might get it.” I would like to rephrase that to say “be careful what you don’t ask for, you might get it.” If we don’t step up and make our voices known, we are going to end up with a refinery in our midst.

It's Just Sad

June 10th, 2009
Think about it
I was driving around the proposed refinery site the other day and thought to myself why on earth would anybody want to tear up this beautiful land and turn it in to a god-awful refinery? When you see farmers working in the fields getting in the last of the corn and beans you just have to shake your head in wonder.For those of you that haven’t been to the area lately, just take a drive and look at the wonderful sights. You know that if this clean air permit is approved and Hyperion starts construction, the first thing they are going to do is to tear down all buildings, farms, and trees. They are going to make that area look like a wasteland. And for what, some archaic outdated oil refinery. For someone who has never built a refinery, this statement about being state of the art is nothing but bull. 3000 acres of beautiful farmland turned into a parking lot. What a shame. What more can I say? There aren’t words to describe what is going to happen next. It’s just sad

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!

Facts about an Environmental Impact Statement

May 29th, 2009
Facts about an EIS
With all the fuss that has been going on with Hyperion, I thought maybe I should refresh everyone’s memory and describe again what an Environmental Impact Study is and why those opposed to the refinery are demanding that Hyperion submit one.
First, the definition of what it is - - An environmental impact statement, in the United States, is a document that must be filed when the federal government takes a "major Federal action significantly affecting the quality of the human environment." The law requiring this is the National Environmental Policy Act.
The key words in that phrase are federal government and federal action. The state of South Dakota and Hyperion are saying that this is not a federal project and therefore there is no federal action taking place so they don’t need to file an impact study. If there are federal monies involved in this then the government can step in. such as using stimulus money for some of the cost that Hyperion would have to bear. What I don’t understand about this is that Hyperion was in Washington D.C. asking our Senators and Congresswoman to aid them in obtaining a $10 Billion dollar loan to build this. Maybe the loan money will come after the air permit is approved. But it seems to me that the feds will have a say in the project if it happens. What do I know? Anyway, back to the definition. What an impact statement is is an assessment of the possible impact-positive or negative-that a proposed project may have on the natural environment. What is does is to make a report which includes a detailed description of a proposed development project with emphasis on the existing environment setting, viewed from both a local and regional perspective, and a discussion of the probable impact of the project on the environment during all phases. It certainly makes sense to me why we are asking the Hyperion folks to make such a report. If they are going to be “Transparent” and open about this I would think it wouldn’t be a problem. Here is the hitch. An EIS might just reveal problems with putting a refinery here and therefore the DENR would deny their permit. So don’t submit one. Convince the state that one isn’t necessary and that doing a state study would suffice. In my opinion, that is exactly what they did.
The word environment in this case is an all encompassing word. It includes the human issue as well as air, water and land. What will the refinery do to the human population that will exist by this refinery? How will it affect their lives both monetarily and physically? For one thing, it does not address the problems dealing with infrastructure. Again and again we have told anyone in the state who will listen, that we cannot afford what it will cost to improve infrastructure.
Let’s take housing as an example. To make accommodations for the families that will be employed here (1800+) we will need to build enough housing for them to live in. now we just can’t say Mr. Jones you’re going to live in Elk Point. Mr. Smith, you’re going to live in Vermillion. The people that move here are going to make the choice where they want to live. Now let’s give lead time to building the house. What would you say is the average time start to finish for a house? Let’s use 9 months as an average, just for the sake of argument. It takes more than a general contractor to build a house. There is water, electrical, sheetrock, carpenters; landscaping, engineering blueprints just to name a few. How many companies are there in this area that can take on building 700 units at one time in all the communities in a 100 mile radius of the refinery? Don’t forget these builders are also building for just the people already living here that want new homes, or the contractor is building a spec home etc. it will be an absolute nightmare. How many of these 1800+ employees will be willing to wait 2 to 3 years for a home that fits their needs? Bear in mind, that these construction workers will be doing this at the same time Hyperion is doing the refinery. The job market is really getting scarce now. Who is going to do what? Where are they going to work? Decisions, decisions, decisions. The best example I can give of this is Dakota Dunes. How long did it take for that to get up and running? It’s been over 20 years and they are still building down there. The population is just now getting to 2800 people. Give me a break folks!
I’m getting off the track here, back to the EIS. The main reason for the EIS is to show just exactly how this will affect the balance of man against nature and man against himself. Will construction upset the apple cart? Will they be able to live in harmony without harming each other? Is this a major change or a minor change to the environment? And the big question, IS THIS GOING TO BE HARMFUL TO THE PEOPLE IN THE SURROUNDING AREA? Will the construction of the refinery change the area for the good or for the bad? Part of an EIS concerns dollar$. Can this area support a refinery and all its ancillary projects? I would have to say no. it will take longer to build the infrastructure than to build a refinery. And then what have we got?

The Calm before the storm

May 20th, 2009
The Calm before the storm

Well, here we sit awaiting the decision. The disputed hearing started in Pierre yesterday. The Board of Minerals and Water is going to decide not whether or not Hyperion should build a refinery, but if they are going to build it within the guidelines that the state DENR says it has to be built. If you have been following the actions of DENR in the past, you know what is going to happen.

What ever happened to the days when government was concerned about people’s health and welfare? It is simply amazing what the dollar can do to influence decisions that before would have been unthinkable

I am a natural born pessimist. My gut feeling is that this refinery is never going to be built because Hyperion is saying that they are going to build something that has never been built, and something they don’t know how to build, A “Green” refinery. Now think about this for a minute. How many multi-million, multi-billion dollar oil companies are there in the United States? There must be twenty or thirty. Where does Hyperion rank in these twenty or thirty oil companies? They are not even on the chart because they are not even an oil company. They are a real estate development company. Yet here they are saying they are going to build the first green refinery built in the United States since 1976. They are way out of their league here. if this were something that could be done, you can be rest assured it would be someone who has the money to do it, not someone like Hyperion, And here we are getting totally bent out of shape because we fear what they say they can do.

One has to ask themselves just where they expect to obtain funding for an undertaking that is far, far above their heads. I know there is the old saying “if you’re going to dream, dream big.” But this is absolutely ludicrous. This is absolute folly. If they are doing anything, they are acting as an agent or go-between for some company that is flying under the radar, so to speak. It has to be a company that is going to cause a firestorm when it comes out who they are. We still have to face the fact that this might not be a refinery at all, although I can’t see why they would go through the permitting process if it isn’t a refinery.

One has to ask themselves whether or not they are they making promises they can’t possibly fulfill. If you take the time to research the two things they say they can do but is not economically feasible is the fact that commercial application of IGCC and Carbon Capture is a very expensive operation. Hyperion is going to operate as cheaply as fiscally possible to show the greatest margin of profit. You have to remember that they don’t say they will build a facility that will operate under IGCC; they say they will build a facility that will be IGCC capable. There is a big difference. In fact it is a huge difference.

To me this is nothing more than a setup for failure, unless of course they are fronting for a controversial sale of their venture. They would have to do a complete makeover just in the management structure of the organization. Here is a company with less than 100 employees suddenly in charge of thousands. The only way this could possibly happen is to have a general contractor that is large enough to handle building a refinery. I have mentioned this in past articles, but after researching this, it once again comes down to Fluor Enterprises. This is an all in one company that has the capacity to do a project as large as this one is. This will be a logistical nightmare. One has to arrange pipelines, oil, gas and water. Build a railroad, build roads, pave the refinery area, and get permits, on and on and on.

What I can’t figure out about all this is why Hyperion doesn’t admit they are not capable of doing this but have joined with someone like Fluor to do this. Hyperion knows they are not capable of doing this on their own, so why don’t they just come out and say they have contracted with Fluor to do this. There is an old saying in the military or for any large business for that matter that for every person on the line there are 8 support personnel behind them. Again, this comes back to “Transparency.” Is it because Fluor will make more out of this initially than Hyperion and they don’t want this to happen or is it inexperience on their part that they think bigger than they are?

I think Hyperion is banking on the idea that the air permit is going to be approved and then they can announce everything at one time. One thing that hasn’t been answered is how long can Hyperion wait to announce what they intend to do. If you remember a few articles back, I asked Preston Phillips why they just don’t come out and announce that Elk Point is the “anointed” site for this and he said, “Because the air permit has not been approved.” So here we are, waiting like someone waiting for the executioner to decide when to let the axe fall. It is really going to be interesting to see what happens this week in Pierre. Is anyone taking a bet on the outcome?