Doug Maurstad hits the editorial page of that Sioux Falls paper to remind us that Hyperion's four-year land options for its proposed refinery in Union County end August 31. Four years, and no action. Not one job, not one acre cleared, and no action planned until 2012. Maurstad says Hyperion has dropped the land it's interested in from 27,000 acres to 4,000 acres.
If Hyperion does get its act together and start building, it will be bad for South Dakota. Remember, Hyperion is tied to the Keystone pipelines and the dirty, expensive tar sands oil TransCanada wants to ship. Processing tar sands oil requires four times as much water as conventional oil refining... and that water will come from our prairie aquifers that scientists say are already stressed by farming and development. A tar sands refinery might provide jobs in Union County, but it will severly limit the capacity of surrounding communities to expand water supply to new residents and businesses or even continue to meet the needs of current users. Imagine that: Hyperion as zero-sum development.
Richard Leopold, chief of Iowa's Department of Natural Resources, points out another way Hyperion's development could limit economic opportunities for everyone else in the neighborhood. Air quality standards allow only so much pollution in each area. Hyperion could belch so much filth that it would fill the emissions quota for southeast South Dakota and northwest Iowa. No one else would be able to build a factory in the neighborhood. Elk Point could become a company town: the only place to work would be Hyperion. Wedding your town's economic development to one company that monopolizes the labor pool and crowds out all competing industries is a really bad idea.
I've said before that the chances of the ever-delayed Hyperion refinery becoming reality are slim. The business case isn't there. But we can't let our guard down. We have lots of other options for real green energy development that will improve our economy and our environment rather than limit our options. Let's tell Hyperion (and TransCanada!) to take their pipe dreams elsewhere.
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