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Union Co. Residents Mixed On Hyperion Ruling

February 10, 2012, 5:59 PM by David Brown

Union Co. Residents Mixed On Hyperion Ruling
UNION COUNTY, SD - A circuit court ruling Thursday clears the way for Hyperion to build a $10 billion oil refinery in the southeast corner of South Dakota.

But Union County residents still aren't happy with the project.

The ruling upheld an air quality permit issued by the South Dakota State Board of Minerals and Environment. Opponents have argued the permit doesn't have high enough environmental standards, but the judge disagreed. The refinery would be built on the northern edge of Union County near the town of Spink. And residents there aren't exactly pumped about the project.

There's plenty of food for thought at the Spink Café in Union County. But the topic de jour is oil, and not the cooking kind.

"I think it'll be beneficial," Hawarden, Iowa resident Rob Myers said. "I mean, we need jobs out here."

"There's really no guarantee that the jobs Hyperion says are going to come are really coming," Union County resident Liz Merrigan said. "Big companies bring their own workers for this."

Merrigan has opposed the Hyperion oil refinery for years. She believes Thursday's ruling overlooks several key factors.

"I think, given the composition of the tar sands and the carbon dioxide that will be released by the refinery, it's always been a terrible idea from an environmental sense," Merrigan said.

"We have not supported the refinery from day one simply for the fact of the proximity of the refinery to where we live," Union County resident Ron Dreeszen said.

Dreeszen lives less than 250 feet from where the refinery would be built, and he's been told by officials in the past he would be forced to move.

"I raised my family there and it's probably the prettiest part of Union County," Dreeszen said.

Merrigan says there will be unforeseen environmental impacts from the refinery and the state should instead be focused on clean energy.

"I think oil production is a thing of the 20th century," Merrigan said. "We should be working on the 21st century of wind and soil."

And while Dreeszen isn't concerned with the future of energy, he hopes the opposition to the refinery keeps fighting on behalf of the family farm he's operated for more than 40 years.

"I don't think it's a good area," Dreeszen said. "I don't think it's a good fit for the refinery, I never though it is."

"Why would you have economic development at the expense of your environment?" Merrigan said. "What else is there other than the environment?"

The project is scheduled to start construction in March of 2013, unless opposition groups file an appeal to the South Dakota Supreme Court.

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