Taking advantage?

To the editor:

The following statements are taken directly from Hyperion's application so please read these carefully, and then you will have more information to make an educated decision as to whether or not the application for Hyperion Resources should be granted. Remember, these are not my words; they are taken directly from the application.

1) Section 603. Schedule of Fees, Charges and Expenses. The Board (County Commissioners) will not establish any fees, charges, or expenses applicable to the ECPD District or uses or structures within the ECPD District in an amount or nature greater or otherwise more extensive than those applicable to other properties, uses, or structures within the County. The Board will not establish any fees, charges, or expenses that apply, or have the effect of applying only to uses or classifications of uses that are planned for, or located within, the ECPD District, but not other properties, within the County.

2) Section 704. Required Subdivision Improvements. – Last sentence. The foregoing Project systems shall not be subject to the review and approval of the Board, and shall remain under the control of the Applicant.

3) Section 804. Repeal of Conflicting Ordinances. All ordinances or parts of ordinances in conflict with this Ordinance are hereby repealed to the extent necessary to give this Ordinance full force and effect.

Are you comfortable with these demands being made by "Our Friendly Neighbor?"

Would this work in your town?

Do you like being dictated to?

Are we being taken advantage of?

Doug Maurstad

Hyperion doubts

To the editor:

The Hyperion oil refinery issue is becoming more interesting. In Pierre on Feb. 11, Senate Bill 196 was discussed at the Senate State Affairs Committee. This bill was killed 5-4. It would have placed restrictions on oil refineries above and beyond the national standards in the area of air quality, flare management and leaks. The bill sought to equal the highest level of protection that is available in our country today. It would not have prohibited Hyperion from pursuing their ultimate goal of building a refinery.

Steve Pirner the director of the South Dakota Department of Environment and Natural Resources, testified against this bill. One of the key responsibilities of the DENR in its mission statement is to protect public health and the environment by providing regulation that promotes a good business climate and exceeds the expectation of its customers. Director Pirner has requested in the DENR fiscal '09 budget analysis that they will need an increase of $96,000 for environmental and architectural consultation with expertise in oil refinery and crude oil pipeline projects. The DENR has acknowledged that they have "little or no expertise" in these areas. When questioned by our Sen. Nesselhuf about communication with Hyperion, he reported that Hyperion had sent their office an e-mail urging the DENR to block these extra safeguards for our citizens.

This was surprising to me. Hyperion Oil had promised in three town meetings on Dec. 7 in three separate Union County locations that their emissions would be significantly lower than any California refinery. Despite this claim for decreased emissions they are unwilling to support efforts by our legislator to secure protection for our surrounding community.

One now wonders about the sincerity and transparency of Hyperion Oil. This certainly raises doubts about the true quantity of the cancer causing emissions forced upon us.

Charles Yelverton, MD

Overhaul policy

To the editor:

I wish to thank our Legislators for hearing the people, in one sense, and giving us, the state employees, the cost of living raise of 3 percent that our salary policy defines instead of the 2.5 percent raise that Gov. Rounds proposed. On the other hand, I wish to stress the fact that each year that they offer an across the board straight percentage, that the distance between the "haves and the have nots" becomes greater. An individual at the lower end of the spectrum such as a custodian making $17,000 will get a raise of $510. An individual making $40,000 a $1200 raise and an individual making $100,000 a $3000 raise … the message ultimately being that the cost of living for those who make more money is greater than for those who make very little.

This year an amendment to the 2.5 percent raise that addressed both low salaries and this salary imbalance was brought to the table by Rep. Glenski from Sioux Falls. She recommended a $1,000 across the board raise for state employees (not affecting those salaries controlled by the Board of Regents) instead of the 2.5 percent raise. This proposal would have advantaged two-thirds of the state employees and cost the state less money! This would have given those making $20,000 a 5 percent raise and those making $100,000 a one percent raise. Employees making $40,000 would still get a 2.5 percent raise. According to the Rapid City Journal, this was apparently voted down due to the need to look further into the ramifications of such a change to the salary policy package. Some people would say that such a decision is unfair to those in the higher paying jobs. Admittedly, it would not be beneficial to do this yearly, however, an occasional adjustment such as this would be beneficial to the overall balance of salaries.

The state needs to consider a complete overhaul of the current salary policy which was put in place in 1992. People who don't work for the state are unaware of facts such as the one written into the salary policy that describes mid-point in the salary as "job worth." State employees don't get past mid-point in their salary range. It requires jumping through impossible hoops. This makes salaries ridiculously low. I would venture to say that the state is guilty of false advertising. Check the facts for yourselves.

There needs to be career growth incentive raises that lead one through their entire salary range. This would encourage competitiveness and quality work performance. The current system is stagnant and causes low morale and frustration. The 20-year employee who can practically run the department is often faced with the reality that the one-year employee makes the same salary. Does the state really wish to encourage their people to feel miserable about their jobs and, in effect, their lives here in South Dakota? That is the result of the salary policy in place.

Thank you, Rep. Glenski, for trying something new and Rep. Putnam for opening the door. Maybe next year.

Cindy Gehm

Define green

To the editor:

"It's quite remarkable that nobody was killed": that was the Tuesday, Feb. 19 front page headline of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram reporting the Feb. 18 oil refinery explosion in Big Springs, TX. The article states: "smoke could be seen from 70 miles away"; the "explosion was felt 40 miles away"; and one person who lived 4 miles away stated "it felt like a bus hit my house." Schools were closed, and the interstate was shut down. The Texas Department of Transportation's maintenance supervisor commented that "it looked like a tornado had come through . . . it looked like a bomb had gone off in the refinery." Because it was a holiday, a skeleton crew was working, thus the vice president of Alon USA was able to say that "only" five people were injured (of which one was injured when debris hit her car on the interstate). The news coverage here in Texas of this explosion (at a 70,000 barrels/day refinery) only intensifies my concerns about Hyperion's potential oil refinery (which is to be 400,000 barrels/day) in Union County. With all the talk of a "state of the art refinery" built by a "world class team," one is led to believe that an explosion is nearly impossible at a refinery that is "green."

I continue to be amazed at how the exhausted mantra of "money and jobs" (that Hyperion supposedly will bring) seems to stifle or outweigh critical questions about the long term environmental and health factors (consistently minimized by Hyperion) related to a project of this magnitude. At Hyperion's public informational meeting (Elk Point, Dec. 2007), I asked one of Hyperion's representatives to define "green." He stammered and struggled because I asked him to define "green" using language other than the media produced advertising language on Hyperion's brochures. He stated that it was "complicated" to define "green." It sure is – because there are multiple definitions and a wide spectrum to what "green" can mean. So, who gets to define this refinery as "green"? Who benefits from naming it as "green"? Who doesn't?

Hyperion is planning to get its oil from Canada in order to "keep North American oil in North America." If this is true, then Hyperion should be transparent about how they intend to "get" this oil and consistent in honoring its "commitment" to being a "green" refinery. According to The Environmental Integrity Project's (Dec. 2007) "Oil Refinery Permits: A Handbook for Citizen Participation in the Permitting of Oil Refineries under the New Source Review Provisions of the Clean Air Act" (this handbook can be downloaded from http://www.environmentalintegrity.org/page5.cfm), Hyperion is one of the companies interested in refining oil from the "tar sands" of Canada. According to the handbook cited, "the environmental costs of mining and refining tar sands are staggering. Mining the deposits lying relatively close to the surface means clear-cutting and strip-mining huge portions of intact boreal forest ecosystem, turning it into enormous open-pit mines as large as three miles wide and 200 feet deep" (p. 3). (See handbook for further details on the amount of water and energy to refine oil from tar sands and much more information.) This process is anything BUT "green."

If this is the process by which Hyperion will obtain its oil, then I challenge Hyperion to 1) be transparent about it, and 2) recalculate its definition of "green" without ignoring the factors of how the oil is recovered and what the environmental impact will be on the area from which it is recovered.

Can the State of South Dakota and Union County promote "money and jobs" and Hyperion's undefined "green" while selectively ignoring the environmental impact on the continent? Are the state and county willing to let Canada pay the environmental price so that South Dakota and Union County can benefit from "money and jobs" as well as the pretense that their backyard is "green"?

Rev. Deanna Langle
Fort Worth, TX

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