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Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Refineries Bring Economic Boom? Well, You Got Boom Right...

South Dakota GOP gubernatorial candidate Dennis Daugaard vows in his economic plan to "Make the Hyperion refinery a reality." He says the proposed Union County oil refinery is an "incredible opportunity for South Dakota," promising jobs and dollars, and he vows as governor to "ensure that environmental extremists and an activist EPA do not prevent this important project from becoming a reality."

O.K., how about safety concerns? Union County Commission candidate Doug Maurstad directs our attention to a new study finding American refineries are exceptionally bad at safety. American refineries apparently lose four times as much money from deadly accidents as overseas refineries. (Is our American know-how limited to making things go boom?)

An explosion at the Tesoro refinery in Anacortes, Washington, Friday killed five workers and critically injured two more. The Tesoro facility had a history of previous safety violations that government regulators arguably did not do enough to punish. U.S. Chemical Safety Board chairman John Bresland says, "The CSB has eighteen ongoing investigations. Of those, seven of these accidents occurred at refineries across the country. This is a significant and disturbing trend that the refining industry needs to address immediately.” CSB is currently investigating accidents at facilities owned by, among others, CITGO, Goodyear, and Exxon.

I'm not sure which is riskier: doing business with current industry players, or trusting Hyperion, a company with no refinery experience at all, to build a time bomb in Union County.

With such a rottten safety record, oil refineries clearly require stricter oversight and regulation. But in Dennis Daugaard's Republican world, efforts to strenghen OSHA and the Chemical Safety Board and protect workers and neighbors from refinery explosions are just "federal efforts to over-regulate and stifle economic growth... erode state autonomy and hurt businesses and families."

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