SD board OKs air quality permit for oil refinery By Chet Brokaw
Associated Press Writer PIERRE, S.D. (AP) â�?�? A state board voted unanimously Thursday to approve an air quality permit for a $10 billion oil refinery that Hyperion Resources wants to build in southeastern South Dakota. The Board of Minerals and Environment found that Dallas-based Hyperion has met the requirements set in state laws and rules. It endorsed the state Environment Department's recommendation to issue the permit for the first new U.S. oil refinery built since 1976. Ed Cable, a leader of opponents who live near the project, said they will likely file a court appeal to try to overturn the board's decision. Opponents, which include the Sierra Club and local groups Save Union County and Citizens Opposed to Oil Pollution, contend that the proposed refinery near Elk Point would emit too much pollution and hurt the quality of life in the area. Hyperion argues it will be a clean, modern plant that will reduce the nation's dependence on oil from overseas. Hyperion Vice President Preston Phillips said approval of the air quality permit was a key step in the company's plan to start construction in 2011 and begin operations in 2015. The project still needs two state water permits and a federal wetlands permit, he said. "We're ecstatic, very excited," Phillips said. "I think the permit reflects Hyperion's commitment to responsibly developing a project in terms of the environment." Board members heard about 10 days of testimony spread over the past few months. Before voting Thursday, they noted that the project has split the community, with some supporting it as an economic boost and others opposing it as a polluting disruption of rural life. Board member Timothy Johns said refineries are needed in the middle of the nation. "I think without a doubt we're going to need oil refineries in this country for generations to come," Johns said. "Everybody says they want one, but don't want it in my back yard." The refinery would be located on 3,800 acres of farmland north of Elk Point. It would process 400,000 barrels of Canadian tar sands crude oil each day into low-sulfur gasoline, diesel, jet fuel and liquid petroleum gas. The project also would include a power plant that produces electricity for the refinery. It would use a byproduct of the refinery process, solid petroleum coke, which would be turned into gas and burned to produce electrical power. The gasification would allow the removal of more pollutants, the company says. "The Hyperion Energy Center is a world-class facility that is state-of-the-art and is committed to industrial and environmental excellence," Hyperion lawyer Rick Addison told the board in closing arguments Thursday. "If we are going to build industrial facilities in the United States, we have to build in a world where we can no longer be casual about pollutants." Robert Graham of Chicago, a lawyer representing opponents of the project, said the board should deny the permit because the refinery would emit a lot of pollution, including carbon monoxide, nitrogen oxide, sulfur dioxide and fine particles. Hyperion also has failed to prove the project would meet air quality standards or would use the best available technology, he said.