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Landowner Thinks Refinery Is Dead Despite Permit

January 24, 2013, 6:15 PM by Ben Dunsmoor

Landowner Thinks Refinery Is Dead Despite Permit
UNION COUNTY, SD -

The South Dakota Supreme Court upheld the air permit for Hyperion's proposed oil refinery in Union County on Thursday.

Opponents had argued that an environmental impact statement should have been done before granting the air permit for the $10 billion project.

In its decision, the South Dakota Supreme Court said state law does not require an environmental impact statement to be done adding that the state Department of Environment and Natural Resources took enough public comment and did enough environmental analysis that an impact statement wasn't needed.

But in the time the air permit has been tied up in court the land agreements Hyperion had for the refinery have expired and that's why some opponents aren't concerned about Thursday’s decision.

One of them is Dale Harkness. He believes his 100-year-old farmhouse is safe from the threat of the refinery that was proposed to go up less than 100 yards from his front door.

"We haven't lost anything. We knew we were going to get to this point," Harkness said.

Six years ago Harkness wasn't so sure his property would be safe when Hyperion proposed building an oil refinery in rural Union County.

"We would have left. This land would have been useless. Who would want to live here next to that," Harkness said.

But over the last several years Harkness has grown to believe that the refinery, once known as the 'Gorilla Project,' would never happen.

Even on the day that the South Dakota Supreme Court gave its stamp of approval for the air permit, Harkness says the plans for the proposed refinery are all but dead.

"Well, they've been six years trying to get the land and get money, and all they've gained in those six years is the permit. They've lost the land they had," Harkness said.

Hyperion allowed it's land agreements to expire on October 1, 2012 and Harkness says he has new neighbors now who likely won't sign on the dotted line if the Texas company comes knocking again.

"Some of the land that was optioned has been sold now. It's changed hands. So it would be pretty hard to build a refinery now because some of that land was really important land if you wanted to build a refinery there so it's changed hands," Harkness said.

That's why Harkness says he no longer worries about a refinery going up less than 100 yards from the front door of his century-old home.

"We've slept pretty good for the last four years because we was certain this wasn't going to happen," Harkness said.

At the Supreme Court hearing in October, Hyperion officials said they were still committed to building the project even though the land agreements had expired.

KELOLAND News reached out to Hyperion about Thursday's Supreme Court decision and they called it quote 'fantastic news.’

"We've said from the beginning this will be the cleanest, most environmentally sound refinery in North America, likely the world. The Supreme Court's decision affirms that," Hyperion project executive Preston Phillips said in a statement.

Hyperion said it will likely apply for an extension to its permit because the current one requires that construction needs to start by March.

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