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Hyperion Lets Air Pollution Permit Lapse

Hyperion's proposed refinery in Union County appeared to die last fall when the Dallas-based company let its land options expire. The corpse decayed further last week as Hyperion let its hard-won air quality permit expire.

The South Dakota Supreme Court just affirmed Hyperion's permit to pollute Union County's sky last month. At the time, Hyperion vice-president Preston Phillips whined,

"Given the fact the Sierra Club’s appeals have consumed more than 16 of the 18 months we have for a construction-start window, it is likely we will apply to the BME for an extension to our permit.... We’re eager to push the project forward, but the constant delays by the Sierra Club make it difficult to bring people on board and begin construction" [Preston Phillips, quoted by Julie Ann Madden, "S.D. Supreme Court Affirms Air Permit But Doesn't Change DENR's Pollution Limits," Akron Hometowner, 2013.01.31].

Hyperion's last air pollution permit extension was issued September 15, 2011. The 18-month extension ended Friday, March 15. The DENR has apparently changed Hyperion's mind, convincing them that instead of repeating the extension process, Hyperion would do better to get its ducks back in a row and apply for a whole new permit.

But a couple Union County residents don't see Hyperion as having high duck-rowing skills:

"I would like to see them disappear, completely," said Ben Quam, who owns land between Elk Point and Spink, South Dakota....

"Finally we got to the point where we decided that we were going to call their bluff, not because he didn't like the idea of an oil refinery, but because," They're not very well organized, they don't take business well, and certainly don't treat people well. In this part of the country when you don't treat your neighbor well it doesn't go over well," explained Quam.

...Liz Merrigan of Spink... saw the red flags early on, when the company started optioning land before anyone really knew what they were about.

"The company was duplicitous by choice or by chance," she said [Kristen Johnson, "Hyperion Will Let Air Permit Expire," KTIV, 2013.03.15].

But breathe easy, Union County. As refinery opponent Ed Cable points out, Hyperion has no land, no funding, no oil supply, and now no air permit. The Hyperion refinery is not happening.

Related: Shawn Brady of Vermillion bought a Union County liquor license in December 2009, hoping to turn the old Garryown Catholic church at Exit 31. His business plan was to cash in on the hundreds of thirsty refinery workers Hyperion promised for the area. But with Hyperion's collapse, Brady told the Union County Commission in December that "I think this Summer or Spring we’ll go ahead with what we want to do — a restaurant with a bar attached to it as opposed to a bar with a restaurant."


  1. jana 2013.03.17

    So how much have the tax payers of SD invested in this project?

  2. larry kurtz 2013.03.17

    Good question, Jana. Wining and dining, no doubt: all i have been able to find is a Sioux City Journal article say that the State of South Dakota would do everything but give them the money.

    Will keep digging.

  3. Dougal 2013.03.17

    This was Mike Rounds' signature agenda item ... and it failed because it was in search of a $10 billion bailout from Washington. It stirred up hatred and suspicion in Union County when the veil of secrecy created by Rounds allowed Hyperion's arm twisters secure land options, bitterly pitting neighbor against neighbor. It held up any other kind of development in the area while this farce got played out.

    Rounds called it The Gorilla Project, but it turned out only to be a very expensive hoax. Hopefully, voters in Union and Clay counties won't forget this when Smilin' Mikey struts around looking for votes.

  4. alan 2013.03.17

    on there facebook page they claim it still alive and waiting on the or does any one know if they have any control of the land?? i would think if they did they would have started building something to keep there permit alive and not have to start over

  5. caheidelberger Post author | 2013.03.17

    The weather?! What is that supposed to mean? How does renewing permits and lining up investors hinge on weather?

  6. kevin kelley 2013.03.18

    The only land Hyperion has is a leased office in Elk Point. Seems a little small for a refinery. They lost all the land in the footprint last August when they couldn't pay their options and there has been no sign of them in the neighborhood talking to landowners or trying to put it back together. The gorilla also lost what little goodwill and trust there was with the landowners/ supporters. If they try to come back, they will need to replace their empty promises with suitcases of cash.

  7. caheidelberger Post author | 2013.03.19

    Kevin, I'd bet the fact that Hyperion has let its land options and its air pollution permit lapse means it wasn't able to raise the cash for those suitcases. As Dougal notes, this failure is another example of the emptiness of M. Michael Rounds's terms as governor. He rolled out the red carpet for a company that couldn't deliver.

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