Saturday, December 26, 2009

A tough row to hoe

December 22, 2009
A Tough row to hoe?
Well, since this will be the last Hometowner article for the year, I might as well make an announcement. 2010 is an election year and I will be running for county commissioner from District 5, so my column is going to be rather restricted. I have to be careful what I write about so the county commissioners can’t accuse me of using the Hometowner for a soap box or platform for election. You already know of course that if I choose to speak at the county commission meetings I have to announce whether or not I’m speaking as a private citizen or as a candidate for elective office. I asked the other day if when the commissioners are running for reelection whether or not they have to announce that and was told that when the meeting is in session they are acting as commissioners not candidates for office. Right! Since when?
There is a fine line in this whole ordeal. Even though the paper is published in the state of Iowa, the majority of the people in my district read the Hometowner. Isn’t it nice to read a paper with REAL news printed in it instead of propaganda? I wonder what would happen if I wrote in the Wall Street Journal? Anyway, I will continue to write about oil, water, Hyperion, and the environment. It is just that I will be very careful what I say about county happenings, except for what comes out of the mouths of the commissioners themselves. Then it is news. I will save my wit and witticisms for the campaign.
The rest of this article today is about climate change. The meeting in Copenhagen is drawing international attention, but I would venture to say that the majority of the people in the United States could care less about what is happening in the conference. I have several concerns about what this is all about, and wonder if you might feel the same way. I really want to call this a case of the have’s versus the have not’s.
v 1. One of the big concerns about the climate warming conference is the fact that the poor nations are being hung out to dry. The rich nations continue to get richer and the poor get poorer at the expense of these rich nations. The sad part of this problem is that the poor nations will never catch up. Technology is advancing at such a rate that it is impossible for them to catch up. Climate change is not a fallacy but fact. How we solve this problem is the dilemma.
v 2. In my opinion, the poor nations do not have the technology or the ability to handle the gift or sharing from richer nations. It will still be oppression, pardon me, suppression because it will take 100 years for Africa to catch up if at all. The industrial revolution took place in the 18th and 19th century and Africa is still lagging. The revolution was merely just the use of coal to make steam to power industrial equipment, and still they are behind.
v 3. In order for poor nations to catch up to, the wealthy nations must make sacrifices. That will never happen. That is like in the United States where many people want redistribution of wealth. Opponents of this call it a move to socialism. You know how scary that word is. You know the ramifications of what will happen if the country makes a move that direction, the same feeling exists for constraints on the use of non renewable energy sources.
v 4. The wealthy nations will never ever submit to denial of luxury, i.e. plenty of electricity, CLEAN running water and flush toilets and CLEAN AIR, for the sake of the poor nations. I can speak from firsthand experience what it is like to have laundry done by beating the clothes on a rock at the river and taking a bath in a large earthen jug that captures rainwater. It isn’t fun.
v 5. Climate change cannot happen if these people are kept in the dark. It is like forcing democracy on a nation that has known nothing but dictatorship. It won’t work. Plain and simple. These nations not only have to want to change, they will have to be in a position to be able to satisfy the richer nations with these changes.
So where does that leave us? Climate change is money talking, not morals or environment. This isn’t a perfect world, but people are still greedy and purvey the attitude what is mine is mine and you’re not about to take it away. If this wasn’t the case, there would be no poor in this country.
Until we take the attitude of giving instead of taking you can preach climate change till you are blue in the face and nothing is going to happen. Is that bad? How many of us would be willing to give up driving anywhere you want and conserve to cut down on pollution. Let’s face it, climate change will only be taken seriously when we end up paying double or triple for gas for our cars and the same for electricity and water. When that happens, progress will stagnate and we will be reverting to the life our forefathers had when they were pioneers in the Wild West.
I am not the bearer of impending doom like the ‘Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse’ but if we don’t make changes voluntarily to slow down this process, the involuntary change is going to be a tough row to hoe. This is reality and we need to face this issue head on now or it will be too late.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Last Dance

December 9th, 2009
Last Dance?
December 17th is going to be a very important date for the people living in the area around Spink. The Union County Board of Adjustment is going to meet to consider a request from Sean Brady for a Conditional Use Permit to open a Lounge and Bar at the current location for the Garryowen Church. Your input to the board is vital.
Personally, I am opposed to the possibility of a steak house/bar/lounge coming into this area. Not for what it is, but what it represents. I’m not opposed to private enterprise, which is what this country is all about. What I’m opposed to is developing in this area because of the possibility of what may come down the road with the Hyperion refinery issue. Ask yourselves would this be happening if it wasn’t for what is a possibility down the road. I think not.
What really bothers me about this whole issue is that I’ve never heard anything from the people around this area what they think about the whole deal. Is it a good thing for the community? Does anyone really care what happens? I’ve not heard a word either way except for talking to one or two people. Is everyone resigned to the fact that there isn’t anything that can be done about it? Maybe I shouldn’t be so concerned about this issue but unfortunately for some. I really care about what happens. I can see this area changing drastically if this comes to pass, and I hardly think it will be for the betterment of us all. Is this a case of leave me alone or what? Believe me when I say this, your voice does count.
This isn’t like a wedding where you speak now or forever hold your peace, this is a case of speak now or don’t ever complain about what comes down the road. There is an old saying that the squeaky wheel gets the grease. If you don’t want this in the community, then you have to go to the meeting and tell them what you feel. At least tell your representative from this district how you feel and hope he votes for the constituents. I don’t believe that last statement either. If I did, Hyperion wouldn’t be an issue. When has the county ever listened to us?
I’m sorry if I upset those of you who are either for this happening or don’t express an opinion. It is my firm belief that this is not good for us. I don’t believe that a refinery is coming here, but whatever comes to take its place is not good either. This issue is not going away. At some point and time we are going to have to face the music, and it might as well be now while we can still select the tune.

Will wonders never cease?

December 16th, 2009
Well, will wonders never cease?
A class of students at USD studied the ramifications of the Hyperion Energy Center and according to an article by David Lias of the Vermillion Plain Talk; ‘The proposed Hyperion oil refinery proposed to be constructed not far from Vermillion in Union County is not a sustainable project. These findings were presented to the Vermillion Chamber of Commerce last Monday’. (Isn’t it amazing what a little education can do for a person? We’ve known this for 3 years, but did anyone listen to us? Nope. )
Again, quoting from the Plain Talk article, ‘the students noted that the Hyperion project would use 9 to 12 million gallons of water a day in the refining process. They also cited information credited to Derrick Iles, state geologist for the South Dakota Department of Natural Resources, who has stated that the biggest concern is not the consumption of groundwater but possible pollution’.( Isn’t it great to be smarter than a 5th grader? I only hope that what these kids told the chamber strikes home and they listen to what these students had to say. After all, this was a semester’s worth of work here.)
(Here is another good quote from this class.) ‘The students also concluded that pollution from the refinery would likely have detrimental effects on nearby land because of contamination.’(Wouldn’t it have been great if they could have presented this information to the Board of Minerals a few months ago? )
The article continues: ‘The university students told the city council that the proposed Hyperion project has the potential to change the air quality of the immediate area as well as distant areas within the wind patterns surrounding Union County. It is estimated that the refinery will emit 19.6 million tons of pollutants annually. The USD students noted in their presentation that some individuals, including Gov. Mike Rounds, argue the emissions from this plant will only be 32 percent of what is currently emitted from Sioux Falls.’(What does the governor know? He only repeats what Hyperion tells him.)
Here is what I find amazing about this whole Hyperion project. If these kids can come to the conclusion that this in not sustainable, why the heck couldn’t the planning and zoning commissioners and the Union County Commissioners reach the same conclusion? I’ll tell you why, they didn’t care or they were in the hip pocket of Hyperion. You will never convince me that they didn’t know this was wrong but only saw dollar signs. They saw this as an opportunity to have this be their legacy for the county. ‘Hey, look at me; I was responsible for this garbage.’ I would be willing to bet my paycheck that they spent less than 5 minutes researching this before they decided which way they were going. In fact I would be willing to bet they never asked any questions at all. Can anyone remember them discussing this in any OPEN meeting? We did all the research for them. We testified for over 5 hours to the planning and zoning back in January last year and within the time it took to say thank you, they made a motion and passed the application on to the commissioners. The commissioners listened to another 5 or 6 hours of testimony by people of this county and then gave their blessing to Hyperion. I hate to keep rehashing old news, but these kids are making our elected and appointed leaders look really stupid. I know I’m not making any friends at the court house, but sometimes the truth hurts. That’s politics I guess. We pay our taxes, and they get the heat. You can never satisfy all of the people all of the time, but this time they were dead wrong. That’s enough ranting and raving I guess. Some of the commissioners call it whining.
Have any of you had the opportunity to read the letter to the editor that Deanna Langle wrote to the Leader Courier? It was a good one. It was simple and straight forward.
‘Your recent editorial about Hyperion dealt with trust and motives.
Save Union County is no faceless corporation from Texas. They are local residents with reasonable worries. You dismiss them, implying that Hyperion should be given the “benefit of the doubt”. I suggest extending that same generosity to neighbors who disagree with you.
It is important that those who support Hyperion not look through rose-colored glasses. It is a given that oil refineries are messy and noisy. They do cause air pollution, irrespective of what the developers say. And they alter quality of life. On the economic side, oil refineries require lots of workers, truck traffic and construction activity.
It’s useful to have spirited public discussion about such a massive proposal. It is not useful to dismiss the motives and desires of well-meaning residents who oppose the project. Hyperion has no track record in the refinery industry. They have already admitted their refinery will emit more CO2 per barrel than other oil refineries. Bottom line: Hyperion is mostly interested in Hyperion. Even if you disagree with your neighbors opposing Hyperion, understand that their interest is motivated by their desire to do what’s best for their home county.’
Now I ask you, why is it that this small pocket of people in the refinery coverage area seems to know and have known for some time that this is not good for us, can’t be figured out by everybody else? I know there are refineries all over the United States that are close to and in populated areas, but that doesn’t mean that we have to endure this. Until Load King closed last week, there doesn’t seem to be much of an unemployment problem in the Siouxland area. I don’t call 4% unemployment a catastrophe.
For someone like the President of the Elk Point City Council to say it is unfortunate that Load King is closing so bring on Hyperion, they can’t get here fast enough is completely irresponsible on her part.