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Hyperion Drops Land Options; No Refinery for Union County

Last updated on 2012.10.01

The Hyperion refinery is kaput.

In August, Hyperion started withholding annual payments and dropping land options in Union County, where it intended to build a tar sands oil refinery. Now on the eve of arguing for an air-quality permit before the South Dakota Supreme Court, Dallas-based Hyperion has let expire all 5,000 acres of its Union County land options. In other words, Hyperion now doesn't have a South Dakota pot to pee in.

Big Oil backer and Union County Commissioner Doyle Karpen says he doesn't get why Hyperion would bail. Hyperion may finally be admitting that it was all talk and no viable business plan, an argument for which I've been reporting evidence since 2008.

Union County resident and refinery opponent Dale Harkness isn't surprised, either:

"I knew it was over, but I knew it was over 3 years go" That's when Harkness said Hyperion repeatedly failed to produce specifics of its plan to build the first new U.S. refinery in more than 30-years... or a plan to pay for it. Harkness said, "If I have to build a chicken house, or a hog house, I would have had to have more than Hyperion" [Matt Breen, "Refinery Critics 'Glad' That Project Is Over," KTIV, October 1, 2012].

However, the hard feelings Hyperion caused keep Harkness from celebrating Hyperion's retreat:

Harkness says so much has been lost already. And, now's not the time for critics to claim victory. "There's no winners in this. It ruined the county, the neighborhood, and friendships. It's a bad deal, and I'm glad to see it done" [Breen, 2012.10.01].

Harkness isn't the only one who has seen Union County friendships killed by Hyperion's gamble. But at least some of the best farmland in South Dakota has been saved for future generations.


  1. Jerry 2012.10.02

    Good to see that this will not happen for our lands, our waters and our state. Seeing that land in question for the first time, I had to wonder when we will get the idea that we need good land like this to grow our food on. This is not 1880 and we have a lot of mouths to feed. I remember the same kind of land in the Spearfish Valley years ago and thought that the housing projects that were being built there were a waste of some of the most productive land here in west river (my opinion of course).

    So now the oil has moved on with that plan, lets make it our business to deny them the building of the XL over one of our main water sources as there is no reason for this, just like the refinery had none in the first place.

  2. Douglas Wiken 2012.10.02

    There is a reason for XL. The intention is to raise gasoline prices in the central US by moving the crude oil out of the region.

  3. Mike Armstrong 2012.10.02

    I have never seen any reporting on the land quality of this area during the whole saga. The Missouri River bottomland between Jefferson and Gayville South Dakota is the premier alfalfa production area of our planet. Hyperion would have rained mercury and many other toxic substances down on this treasure of our state. Folks who support this are not right in the head.

  4. Jana 2012.10.02

    Does anyone know what the state as a whole has spent trying to make the refinery happen?

  5. Testor15 2012.10.02

    The land is the area where Ole Rolvaag wrote about in Giants in the Earth. It is beautiful extremely fertile land. Some of the most productive farming land in South Dakota. The land is just south of Spink.

  6. larry kurtz 2012.10.03

    ‏RT @cody_winchester: Gabrielle Sigel, atty for Sierra Club et al, says 2 laws were violated in issuing air permit - SD enviro policy act and clean air act

  7. larry kurtz 2012.10.03

    "Sigel says DENR abused its discretion by not requiring enviro impact statement"

  8. larry kurtz 2012.10.03

    "In terms of license/permit renewal - argument is over SDCL 1-26-28

    Graham challenging Hyperion's justification for extension. Eg, says no evidence the recession prevented construction.

    ... And that's a wrap. Supreme Court Oct. session is adjourned." RT @cody_winchester

  9. alan 2012.10.07

    did anyone hear how the hearing went in sf?? i hear the it sounded good for hyperion??? anyone hear anything??

  10. caheidelberger Post author | 2012.10.07

    Hard to say, Alan. Check the Sioux City Journal's coverage here. I'm betting that any legal argument that depends on GOP-appointed justices finding cause in South Dakota's weak environmental laws to stop an industrial project on behalf of which two GOP Governors have exerted themselves has a 10% chance of winning. Don't count on South Dakota law to stop Hyperion. Count on the business reality. Hyperion is BS'ing us when it insists it plans to reacquire the land options. That's bluster for whatever investors they think will fall for their last-ditch pitch.

  11. alan 2013.01.24

    i see hyperion got passed buy the courts today when will start to see the build and what will they do about the land

  12. caheidelberger Post author | 2013.01.24

    Hyperion isn't going to build, Alan. They let their land options expire. They have no place to build now.

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