Packed house attends Hyperion hearing

Packed house attends Hyperion hearing
Local and area residents had a chance to air their feelings at a public meeting in the Elk Point-Jefferson High School gymnasium Wednesday about a rezoning application filed by Hyperion Resources.

The application was filed last month and seeks to rezone approximately 3,882 acres north of Elk Point from agriculture to an Energy Center Planned Development District.

The Union County Planning and Zoning Com- mission was on hand Wednesday night to listen to the public's concerns, but did not answer any questions.


According to local media reports, the commission decided, by a 4-1 vote shortly before midnight, to approve the rezoning request.

Each speaker was given three minutes to state their opinion.

Many of those who were against the refinery being built cited possible environmental factors.

Area resident Burdette Hanson said, "Anyone using common sense knows this refinery will destroy some of the best farmland in South Dakota."

Gladys Hanson added, "Using wind turbines for energy and building ethanol plants would be much cleaner than a refinery."

Some mentioned how the project would affect the area's landscape.

"If action is taken to approve the plan, the topography of the area will be forever changed," said Donna LaFuer. "Mixing agriculture with the oil industry is not a good fit for this community."

The possible environmental effects on the health and well-being of those who live beside the refinery was also questioned.

Paul Lessek said the noise the refinery would emit would cause damage to residents' hearing.

"The Hyperion project is a detriment to the health of myself and my neighbors," he said.

Archer Hanson, who lives a half-mile from the potential site of the refinery, said he felt "insulted" when he heard a Hyperion representative say the farmers in the area could get jobs at the center when it's finished.

"I'm not opposed to development, but something of this magnitude does not make sense here," he said.

Some of the residents who spoke in favor of the project said the economic factors far outweigh any negative concerns. Dakota Dunes resident Jim Brandt said, "I can't imagine anyone being against this. … We've got a green project – that's the color of money, it's the color of jobs."

Jill Beckett, another Dakota Dunes resident, said the refinery would help to decrease the nation's dependence on foreign oil.

"We'll be better able to provide the fuel we need to keep our country moving," she said. "South Dakota is very fortunate to be presented with the many opportunities Hyperion offers."

Jeff Holcomb, president of Southeast Technical Institute in Sioux Falls, said the school sees the project "as a great opportunity for workforce development."

Several people representing Hyperion also spoke at the meeting.

Todd Meierhenry, who is on the legal team representing Hyperion for the application, said many of the residents' concerns are addressed by information the company has made available online and at various meetings and open houses.

"Hyperion has gone to great lengths to make as much information available as possible prior to tonight," he said.

Project executive Preston Phillips addressed one rumor about the potential project site head-on. "It will not be used as a landfill," he said.

Phillips also said, "The public will not be negatively affected by the noise and odor" relating to the project.

Phillips noted that an approval of the rezoning application would mean that all steps in the public referral process would be taken, including a final vote on the matter by residents.

The land Hyperion is interested in rezoning is located near Elk Point and is a strong contender for the location of Hyperion's proposed $10 billion refinery and energy center, which would process approximately 400,000 barrels of oil per day when it is completed.

If plans for the refinery are approved, it could be up and running by 2014.

Hyperion will formally present its rezoning application to the Union County Planning and Zoning Commission at 4 p.m. Thurs- day in the county courthouse community room. Public comment will not be heard.

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