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Hyperion Vote 2008

Hyperion Refining Vice President Preston Phillips, left, addresses supporters of the company's $10 billion oil refinery and power plant in Union County in an election-night party on June 3, 2008. The once-ballyhooed project seemed to be over after Hyperion in March missed a state deadline for starting construction.

Hyperion Refining Vice President Preston Phillips was back in Siouxland Wednesday, building local support for the Dallas, Texas-based company's proposed oil refinery and power plant in Union County.

While making the rounds, Phillips and Hyperion spokesman Eric Williams interviewed with local TV stations, updating the status of the $10 billion project, while breaking no new ground.

In my interview with Phillips last month, "Union County refinery has many hurdles to clear," he insisted the five-year-old project, delayed by years of legal wrangling and the affects of the global recession, remains on track to beat a state deadline for starting construction by March 2013

The company won't move forward with their plans until its state air permit litigation is settled. Last month, three opposition groups appealed to the South Dakota Supreme Court a lower court ruling that upheld a state environmental panel's decision to grant the permit.

Hyperion itself appealed one aspect of the amended permit - whether a prescribed limit on carbon monoxide emissions from the refinery's process heaters is technically practical.

Last week, lawyers for the two sides filed their initial legal briefs with the state high court, which is required by law to hear the case.

The opposition groups, which include the Sierra Club and two local groups, Save Union County, and Citizens Against Oil Pollution, argue the amended air permit is flawed because the pollution-control technology is not sufficient to comply with federal environmental laws. They also claim the state Department of Environment and Natural Resources should have conducted a more thorough environmental study. In addition, they maintain Hyperion should have to restart the application process because it missed the original February 2011 construction deadline.

While the case works its way through the legal system, Hyperion is continuing to make progress identifying potential vendors and suppliers, as well as crude sources and pipeline options. Phillips regularly travels to Canada, New York and Houston to meet with industry officials.

He also makes frequent visits to Siouxland, where he meets with local leaders and citizens and stops by the company's office on Elk Point's main street.

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