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.