Their views, stated before the Union County Commission as it prepares to take action on a proposal by Hyperion Resources to rezone 3,880 acres of land to build a $10 billion oil refinery, were as diverse as the demographics of the crowd.
The meeting, which began at 5 p.m. with statements from both Hyperion officials and representatives from Save Union County, which opposes the refinery, took its first break at 7 p.m.
By that time, the number of people expressing opinions opposing the new industry outnumbered those who favor it by about a two-to-one margin.
Commission Chairman Doyle Karpen said during the break in Monday's meeting that he wasn't sure how long it would last. The commission wasn't scheduled to take any formal action on Hyperion's request that night, he said, since the rezoning request had just been placed on its first reading.
In the very near future, the commission may schedule a hearing to make a decision, he said.
Public testimony was filled with give-and-take from both supporters and critics of the refinery. Many people who spoke later in the meeting against the refinery attempted to drive home their points of view by using examples expressed earlier in the hearing by those who support the project.
Dawn Glover, Elk Point's city administrator and the executive director of the Elk Point Economic Development Corporation, said she had the opportunity to travel to the El Segundo oil refinery, located just south of Los Angeles, CA.
Chevron U.S.A., Inc. operates the refinery.
In the area near the refinery, "you will find homes, recreational opportunities and private businesses," Glover said.
The refinery provides jobs for over 1,000 people, and covers about 1,000 acres.
"All refineries are required to follow numerous local, state and federal laws in order to protect human health and the environment," Glover said. "Petroleum refining is one of the most heavily regulated industries in the world. Hyperion Resources will be required to do the same."
Barbara Yelverton of Vermillion told the commission that her research paints a bleak purchase of the El Segundo refinery.
"The proponents of Hyperion tout a beautiful, pastoral refinery surrounded by multi-million dollar homes, no air pollution and and a refinery committed to environmental consciousness," she said.
Her research, however, points out a host of problems with the El Segundo refinery – problems she fears could be experienced here if Hyperion is allowed to construct its energy center.
"The largest oil leak ever recorded in an oil refinery in the United States occurred at the El Segundo refinery," Yelverton said.
Water supplies were contaminated by a leak of 252 million gallons of oil at that refinery, she said.
At the start of Monday's meeting, Project executive Preston Phillips, Hyperion's project executive, reminded citizens that they would have the final say on whether the refinery is constructed in Union County.
"We hope that you will find the approval of our application is best for the future of the county," Phillips told the commissioners. "We ask the county commissioners to move forward with your vote on this project."
"I also will affirm Hyperion's commitment to submitting this project to a vote by the public," he said. "If the application is approved by the county commissioners, Hyperion will take all legal and necessary steps to submit the county's approval to a public referendum process so that the people of Union County have a final say on this project."