Share |
Hyperion's Gorilla will not be running rampant near Elk Point now that the company's Union County land options have expired. Photo of Main Street in Elk Point by Bernie Hunhoff.
Hyperion's Gorilla will not be running rampant near Elk Point now that the company's Union County land options have expired. Photo of Main Street in Elk Point by Bernie Hunhoff.

Requiem for a Gorilla

Oct 3, 2012

Back in the spring of 2007, Union County was abuzz with talk of the "Gorilla Project." The mystery project got its name because rumors said it would be huge. For months, nobody spilled the beans, from local land agents working on acquiring 5,000 acres for the project, to Governor M. Michael Rounds, who was working behind the scenes to entice whoever the big developer was to Union County. 

In June that year, Dallas-based oil company Hyperion announced that the Gorilla was to be a new tar-sands oil refinery. Boosters said it would bring thousands of jobs and big property tax revenues to Union County while promoting American energy independence. Opponents said it would overburden local roads and public services, wreck some of the best farmland in South Dakota with air and water pollution, and delay America's kicking of its unhealthy fossil fuel habit.

Now, after five years of public controversy, the Gorilla is dead. As first reported by Julie Ann Miller in the Akron (IA) Hometowner, Hyperion started letting its land options in Union County expire at the end of August. Now it has let expire options on all 5,000 of the acres it was eyeing for its refinery.

Don't be surprised: since 2007, there's been strong doubt that Hyperion could build a refinery in Elk Point. Hyperion has never built anything this big. It has no infrastructure in place to get Canadian tar sands oil to Union County. The recession stunted oil demand and investor risk-taking. The profitable market for such refined product is overseas, in China, India, and other rising economies, far from Elk Point. One needs no tree-hugging hippie glasses to see that the Hyperion refinery lacked a compelling business case.

Even if the refinery were viable, it would have turned Elk Point into our own mini-Williston. Like the straining oil-boom towns on North Dakota's Bakken formation, Elk Point would have become a town transformed and dominated by a single industry. Union County would have banked on processing finite, toxic materials from far away into fuels to be used farther away. And when the economy shifts away from fossil fuels (watch for that within our lifetimes), an oil refinery-based Elk Point would become our own mini-Detroit.

Farming is a gamble, too, but Union County's rich soil won't run out the way tar sands oil will. Union County's farmers can produce wealth from their own resources and sell that wealth for healthy use in their own community.

Union County and South Dakota need economic development. But we don't need gorillas that tear up our best resources and make us more dependent on unsustainable outside economic forces. The death of Hyperion's gorilla bodes well for all South Dakotans who value clean air, clean water, and economic self-reliance.

 

Cory Allen Heidelberger writes the Madville Times political blog. He grew up on the shores of Lake Herman. He studied math and history at SDSU and information systems at DSU, and is currently teaching French at Spearfish High School. A longtime country dweller, Cory is enjoying "urban" living with his family in Spearfish.



Comments

01:09 pm - Wed, October 3 2012
Bernie said:
Like a lot of the economic development dreams and schemes of the day, this one just didn't seem to fit our needs. I think the fertile food-producing land might be more important to SD and the world in the future than any refinery and the jobs it produces. We're really not short of jobs in SD, we have jobs going empty because many workers lack the skills.
03:02 pm - Wed, October 3 2012
Agreed, Bernie! We can work hard at economic development without being so desperate that we o.k. every project that promises big money. I will contend the costs of Hyperion would have outweighed the benefits.
06:58 pm - Wed, October 3 2012
JUlie Gross said:
Gawd, how much of this blathering blob of blubber must we suffer?

Luddites like Seig Heildelburger won't be satisfied until we're all driving buggies again, using the manure to fertilize his "herb" garden.

"delay America's kicking of its unhealthy fossil fuel habit."

Who says that it's "unhealthy"? Well gee, Seig Heidelburger does! The fact is that the consumption of renewables like oil has given us the most economic growth AND healthy lifestyles ever known to mankind.

Seig Heildelburger wants us back in a cave.
09:19 am - Thu, October 4 2012
LinderM said:
I think the good people of Hyperion dodged the bullet on this issue. It is sad that we are always looking for quick wealth and jobs without completely thinking of the destruction such projects might bring to the land, water and air. Not to mention the cleanup cost down the road, when the big companies up and leave.
If wanting to keep SD air, water and soil clean for the next generation makes one a Luddite, sign me and my horse up.
09:26 am - Thu, October 4 2012
John Polifka said:
A mechanical engineer friend once told me that the internal combustion engine should be declared obsolete. He told me that in about 1973.
12:50 pm - Thu, October 4 2012
dave tunge said:
And when the economy shifts away from fossil fuels (watch for that within our lifetimes)

I don't understand this statement Cory. What do you mean by the economy shifting away? Are you referring to the nation shifting away?
We are already promoting ( read: subsidizing) solar, wind, and ethanol which is already a try to shift away from fossil fuels. But if you think that fossil fuels will be secondary to the "greener" options in our lifetimes then ( although I don't know who or how we would collect) I would make any wager you'd like to cover that that is not going to happen.
As long as coal and oil are readily available, and more economical, I sure think they will be the fuels of the future until such time as the other options can compete without taxpayer subsidies.
06:37 pm - Thu, October 4 2012
Yes, Dave, I'm saying there's a strong possibility that we will see other forms of energy supplant fossil fuels in our economy, certainly nationally, if not globally. The cheap oil is gone. There are a lot more coal reserves, but sensible policy would try to extend those reserves as long as possible by moving to renewable forms now. The future is coming faster than you think. We should prepare for it, build the infrastructure for it, and invest in more research into it so that when the coal supply is reall tight, our kids and grandkids don't find the transition so wrenching. Think ahead!
07:41 am - Fri, October 5 2012
JUlie Gross said:
"A mechanical engineer friend once told me that the internal combustion engine should be declared obsolete. He told me that in about 1973."

Would that be Al Gore Jr?

You know, he did invent the internal combustion engine.
07:47 am - Fri, October 5 2012
JUlie Gross said:
"The cheap oil is gone."

And the proof of this is what? There's plenty of oil now, and new oil will be discovered.

"We should prepare for it, build the infrastructure for it, and invest in more research into it so that when the coal supply is reall tight, our kids and grandkids don't find the transition so wrenching. Think ahead!"

So build now, borrowing TRILLIONS to do so, just so our kids and grandkids won't POSSIBLY struggle will new energy sources? But they won't wrench when their lives suck because they have to pay off THE TRILLIONS & TRILLIONS in debt & interest on the debt incurred to build that "infrastructure"?

Gawd, you're sooooo funny, Seig Helidelburger.
07:49 am - Fri, October 5 2012
JUlie Gross said:
"Yes, Dave, I'm saying there's a strong possibility that we will see other forms of energy supplant fossil fuels in our economy, certainly nationally, if not globally."

Um, please google "the wager".

You're as ill informed now as they were in 1970. Each decade grows its own doomsday idiots.
06:03 am - Mon, October 8 2012
JUlie Gross said:
The consequences of Seig Heildelburger' suggestions are what we see occurring in California--unnecessary and huge spikes in fuel costs.

Predictably, these gas price hikes are most detrimental to the poor, but that's the obvious consequence to most luddite "progressive" policies.

Again, Cory's stickin' it to the poor.
06:09 am - Mon, October 8 2012
JUlie Gross said:
I see Seig Heildelburger is raving against Kristi Noem's [apparent] misuse of a hyphen versus the dash.

Come on SD Mag,this guy's amazing ability to rage against his enemies does nothing for civil discourse, and giving him a platform here that only serves to feed the monster of anger.

Hyphen v. dash--what an amazing display by an vicious attack dog.

SD Mag: we don't need anymore of this guy's rants. His values of exclusion and suspicion of those not like us are not SD values. His hate--filled views are not our views.

STOP THE HATE.
06:48 am - Mon, October 8 2012
Justme said:
Guess I will stop reading this magazine web page if his ranting keeps up. He does sound kinda "off" the real deal.
07:29 am - Mon, October 8 2012
JUlie Gross said:
"Yes, Dave, I'm saying there's a strong possibility that we will see other forms of energy supplant fossil fuels in our economy, certainly nationally, if not globally"

And which non-fossil fuel will get a jet off the ground?

Genius.
06:09 am - Tue, October 9 2012
JUlie Gross said:
I see that Seig Heildelberger is now lampooning an Aberdeen 8th grader for a letter that the studnt wrote to Kristi Noem. Apparently, the 8th grader's spelling did not meet the Cory's standards.

First, Seig Heiidelburger attacks Noem for her hair, then Noem's looks, riding horses, hyphens instead of dashes, and now he goes after an 8th grader for spelling. This type of scorched earth commentary has no place in marketplace, or the marketplace of ideas.

Come on SD Magazine, viciously attacking an 8th grader for her spelling? Seig Heilelberger has his own platform to rant-why does he really need to pollute SD Magazine?

It's time to rid SD magazine of this rabid dawg.

Oppps! Did I use a hyphen or an em dash?
06:05 am - Wed, October 10 2012
Justme said:
If the other side of the isle wrote stuff like Cory about Mr. Verysick who is running against a very successful farm wife Kristi Noem guess what the magazine would do.
05:20 am - Sat, October 13 2012
Grumpy said:
Fran has it correct just look above Cory's deal on the home page when her headlines read "What a Crock "
06:02 am - Mon, October 15 2012
JUlie Gross said:
From last week:

"He [Joe Biden] saves up his righteous indignation for the closing remarks, when he erupts on the Congressman [Ryan] for his callous disregard for truth, justice, and the American Way."

Got that? Congressman Ryan is not American according to Seig Heildeberger. You see, when you disagree with this author, you're not American, you're subject to ridicule for your hair, religion, photos, being female...

REALLY, SD Mag--dump this hate-filled "columnist."
07:22 am - Wed, October 17 2012
JUlie Gross said:
And now, Seig Heildelburger is personally attacking a teacher for speaking up and participating in the political process:"Good thing she doesn't teach math."Any good teacher will tell you that you have to be a jack of all trades. Teaching English means you DO teach math. Math teachers teach English--it all fgoes with being a teacher.Cory's scorthed earth attackes have no place in civil discourse. ENOUGH.SD Mag: GET RID OF THIS BULLY..

Share your thoughts, post a comment to this story:

Your Name:
Your Email Address:  
Your Website:
Comment:  
2000 characters remaining
Captcha
Web Design by LVSYS