PIERRE, S.D. | At the end of September, Hyperion Refining stopped making land-purchase option payments to owners of more than 3,000 acres of Union County farmland. The action put the Dallas, Texas-based company's once-promising plans for a $10 billion oil refinery and power plant on life support.
Some, but not all of the options, were recorded in the Union County Register of Deeds office. After the paychecks ended, some owners waited months for the company to file the necessary paperwork to remove the options.
Releases on the last 24 parcels were filed April 29 and 30, Register of Deeds Jana Fultz said.
"They should have done it last fall," Fultz said. "When that stays on a person's ground, it ties up their property."
Landowners, for example, could have run into problems if they wanted to sell a parcel to another buyer or borrow money against it.
At one time, options for 32 parcels totaling 6,000 acres in Union County were filed. Starting in 2006, the Elk Point Economic Development Corp., optioned the land on behalf of Hyperion, which initially wanted to keep its identify and intentions secret.
In June 2008, Union County residents voted to rezone 3,292 acres north of Elk Point for the 400,000-barrel-per-day refinery, which would have processed heavy crude from Alberta, Canada.
The controversial project, which divided residents of the largely rural southeast South Dakota county, encountered one setback after another. Less than six months after losing control of its proposed site, the company missed a March 15 deadline for starting construction, a condition of its state air permit.
Hyperion reluctantly accepted the Department of Environment and Natural Resources' recommendation to consider applying for a new permit, rather than request an 18-month extension of the deadline.
"We are examining that process. We continue to explore our alternatives for moving forward in Union County," Hyperion spokesman Eric Williams said in an email Thursday.
Opponents, who fought the project in a series of regulatory and legal maneuvers, are declaring the project all but dead. Many of the project's local supporters also acknowledge the chances of resurrecting it are slim to none.