Commission sets stage for Hyperion referendum

Union County Commission discusses rezoning of land for the proposed Hyperion Energy Center at a March 11, 2008 meeting in Elk Point, S.D., that attracted a large crowd of supporters and opponents of the proposed oil refinery and power plant.

The proposed Keystone XL pipeline, which would carry heavy crude through parts of western South Dakota and Nebraska, has been the subject of widespread protests from groups worried about widespread damage to the environment.

A blogger at U.S News & World Report surmises those protesting  would be even more agitated if they only knew about the proposed Hyperion Energy Center, which would process 400,000 barrels of tar sands crude per day from the same tar sands region in Alberta Canada where the Keystone XL would originate.

"... to the relief of many folks in South Dakota and neighboring states, the paparazzi have yet to descend on Sioux Falls and even if they did, they'd have another 60 miles to go to reach Union County, S.D.," Gregg Laskoski, a senior petroleum analyst for GasBuddy.com, wrote in a recent blog post, "Amid Keystone controversy, another energy project moves forward."

"So logistics make it no match for the media grandstanding associated with a more controversial oil project, the Keystone XL pipeline. Absent are the protest theatrics that might otherwise disrupt the work in Union County that many believe represents an important step for South Dakota, the Midwestern region, and the United States."

While it's fair to say the Keystone XL has generated far more national media attention as the Hyperion project, getting the 400,000-barrel-per-day refinery and power plant built in Union County has not exactly been a walk in the park for its supporters. Laskoski wasn't around for the bitter 2008 refendum to rezone Union County farmland for the Hyperion site, a campaign which pitted neighbor against neighbor and even some relatives against relatives.

The Sierra Club joined grassroots groups in opposing the controversial venture, a fight that continues with an ongoing court challenge of the air quality permit issued by the South Dakota Board of Minerals and Environment last month.

In his post, Laskoski details the state board's recent action, which he describes as an "important milestone in the project."

"Clearly, there are still questions to be answered and issues to be resolved. The exact location of the pipeline has not been made public. Hyperion needs to draw 12 million gallons of water daily from the Missouri River and special permits will be needed depending on how it will extract the river water along with other groundwater and stormwater permits."

The blogger closes by giving kudos to Union County voters for passing the zoning referendum by a 58-42 margin.

"After seeing the volatility in retail fuel prices this past year one cannot help but think an awful lot of people should thank Union County for making the right decision."

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