Next month, the parties in a long-running
legal battle over a proposal to build a $10 billion oil refinery in Union
County will present their final arguments in a Pierre courtroom.
The hearing is scheduled for Jan. 12, a
little over four years since Dallas-based Hyperion Resources applied to build
the refinery, which would process 400,000 barrels of heavy crude piped in daily
from Canadian tar sands fields. It would be the first refinery built in the
U.S. since 1976.
Dec. 2007: Hyperion submits initial
Sept. 2008: Hyperion and opponents file for contested case hearing in front of
Board of Minerals and Environment
Aug. 2009: Board approves permit; opponents appeal decision to circuit court
June 2010: Judge Mark Barnett orders board to accept additional evidence;
Hyperion requests construction extension
Sept. 2010 - Feb. 2011: Hyperion submits additional air quality information to
Feb. 14: DENR recommends approving construction extension
Feb. 20: Original construction start deadline
Sept. 15: BME grants revised air permit, construction extension
Jan. 12, 2012: Hearing in Barnett’s courtroom
Aug. 20, 2012: New construction start deadline
The Sierra Club, Save Union County and
Citizens Opposed to Oil Pollution have sued to vacate both the refinery's
original air-quality permit, which the state Board of Minerals and Environment
issued in 2009, and a revised version issued in September after two years of
In September, the board also granted the
company’s request for an 18-month construction extension.
Judge Mark Barnett has the option of
rendering a verdict on the matters under appeal or of ordering the Board of
Minerals and Environment to take more evidence, as he did in June 2010.
Ed Cable of Save Union County said the
opposition will continue to argue that the permitting process has failed to
follow provisions of the Clean Air Act.
“As I understand it, this will be a final
decision for the circuit court,” he said, meaning any further appeals would
have to be made to the South Dakota Supreme Court.
Would refinery opponents take their case to
the Supreme Court?
“I don’t think we can make that flat of a
statement, but certainly we think we have a strong case,” Cable said.
In an email, Hyperion spokesman Eric Williams
said he wouldn’t speculate on how Barnett will rule. But he said the company is
eager to get started on a project that would create thousands of jobs and
bolster the local tax base.
In addition to defending the board’s decision
to issue the permit, Hyperion will present evidence that the limits on carbon
monoxide emissions from the refinery’s process heaters specified in the permit
are not consistently achievable, Williams said.
“Under this permit, the Hyperion Energy
Center will be the most environmentally sound refinery in the country,” he