Public Comment Concludes on Hyperion Air Quality Permit

Those of us who signed up to register comments last night and were able to make it to Elk Point-Jefferson High School this morning showed up fired up and ready-to-go at 9 o’ clock.

Unfortunately, many of those who were unable to make it to yesterday’s 3-5pm comment period were also unable to make it to this morning’s comment period–and those who spoke last night from 7-9 were all folks who signed up in the afternoon.

That process disenfranchised many citizens with regular working hours from voicing their concerns. It wasn’t until this morning that those who signed up last night got their chance to speak, so anyone working regular hours (and there were a LOT of people called who weren’t present this morning) was effectively silenced.

But at the top of the list this morning was a speaker all the way from Bismarck, North Dakota.  He’d stayed overnight here just to put his comments in on this proposed oil refinery and how great it will be.  How sweet is that?  It’s amazing that a person would come all the way from Bismarck on his own dime just to let us know how excited we ought to be for what’s coming to us.

The reason we know he came yesterday and stayed overnight is that the Chair of the Board of Minerals & Environment (that’s Lee McCahren) personally introduced this first speaker of the morning and let us all know he’d personally persuaded the young man to stay so he could make his voice heard.

Can we even pretend this doesn’t look crooked?

Another pro-refinery speaker, who brought a couple little lucite award trinkets with him from jobs he had during his chemical engineering career, was invited by McCahren (twice!) to pass those little lucite trinkets around for the BM&E to look at.  Huh?

I wished I’d brought some trinkets of my trade to pass around.  Like maybe a pile of horse sh*t.  Now that I think about it, it would’ve made a perfect visual aide.

However, McCahren did not invite the young mother who spoke against the refinery and brought her son’s bib emblazoned with “Little Lungs Need Clean Air” (sent to her by the State of SD) to pass that trinket around.

In fact, during most of the anti-Hyperion comments (and from 9am-12:15pm there were 9 for and 21 against granting the permit), McCahren shuffled papers, talked to other board members, and generally seemed disinterested in what the public had to say. I know it’s hard to maintain focus throughout the long process, but the Chair’s focus seemed pretty one-sided to me.

Overall, the comments were good–a representative from the National Park Service was there and expressed the same concerns the Park Service had expressed earlier in the permit process, which are still unresolved.

Several citizens testified about specific environmental impacts, unanswered questions about pollution and the contents of the Canadian sour crude, and their own research into refineries in other parts of the country.  Lots more comments as well about the failure to complete an Environmental Impact Statement, obviously needed for a project of this magnitude.

My own comments were more on the passionate side–questioning whether the public hearing was the farce it appeared to be, whether the BM&E had dinner with Hyperion last night (no response), and talking about sustainable economic development to heal the divided community.

But now it’s time to rest, get back to work, and wait for the BM&E’s decision.

We won’t stop fighting.


6 responses

  1. I think people need to write and call Tim Johnson. He seems to be open to people’s concerns about this issue. This is absolutely unacceptable. Please pass this info on to anyone you think would be upset by this blatant display of disrespect to all those who took the time to express their legitimate concerns about Hyperion and the air permit.

    (Blog Admin note: This comment was signed. Not being able to verify the author of the comment, I have chosen to remove the signature line.)

  2. The last speaker on Wednesday night was also a “pro” person who (I don’t believe) was there to sign-up in the afternoon. In other words, when the Board was asked how they were determining the order in which people spoke, they couldn’t answer — meaning, they COULDN’T answer because they were manipulating it.

    Then today, Thursday, they dragged on without taking the lunch break — it looked like they were trying to get through the list so that they wouldn’t have to come back after lunch. When someone spoke up about it, they agreed to break for lunch and reconvene at 2:15. Unfortunately, people returned only to find that the Board had changed their mind and “announced” (to the few people who heard it) that they would reconvene at 1:30. So, then they ran through the names, no one was there, and they called it a day — despite the fact that I’m certain people were planning to be there 3ish-5ish. Corrupt.

    • I’m glad to be updated on this. I left at approximately 12:15, after they’d announced they were done with the list, and then took one additional speaker. She was still speaking when I left.

      I do know that my partner signed up to speak last night, and I never heard his name called last night or today. He was unable to be there this morning.

  3. Thank you everyone for your input here. I’m trying to remain optimistic about this dilema and hopeful that we have a Board that is open minded and not overly influenced by Gov. Rounds politics. I went to lunch Wed at Los Amigos. Some of the Board was on one side, my party in the middle and Hyperion on the other side. The Board was very quite. I took this as a good sign. Then the next day I was informed about the Whimps encounter. I don’t have any facts on that. Other than I know Mr. McCahren frequents Whimps because he is from Vermillion. I can only hope it was an innocent encounter, ie it is a good place to eat.. On Thursday, I had the opportunity to run in to some of the Board at Cody’s in EP. That was around 1:00, I asked if they were done for the day and Mr. McCahren indicated they were going back, but if I wanted to speak , that yesterday was my chance. I also asked what was going to happen about the citizens that wanted to speak, but didn’t have the opportunity because time ran out and could not return on Thursday. I asked this a couple of times. No Answer… lets go outside and talk. We spoke of some personal issues we had in common and then I informed them I now lived in EP and was approximatly 1/2 mile from the site. Deer in the headlght look! We concluded witth some nice conversation. I thought it would be more appropriate to catch flys with honey, perhaps I was wrong. My Native American Ancestors have a saying, “Mitakuye Oyasin”, It is actually a philosophy for living in harmony. It means “we are related to all things”. Not only are we as humans all related, but we are related to those things around us: the air, water, plants and animals. It is in our human nature to protect these things. I repeat, OUR HUMAN NATURE TO PROTECT THESE THINGS, most likely the Board cannot feel this inert instinct. However, I still want to hope for the best, and that the Board WILL TAKE our COMMENTS to HEART! If not, we should all line up at Gov Rounds front lawn and protest!!!!! I will be in Pierre in June at the constested case hearing. I can only hope we will have a flood of people joining in.

    • Oh, I wouldn’t call it crappy! I live for this kind of thing. I had heard the EPA was going to announce regulation of greenhouse gases, but I was out on the farm and helping with the community garden all day and evening yesterday, so haven’t got an update yet. I’ll check out the gorilla site.



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