By Kristen Johnson, Multimedia Journalist/ Weekend Anchor - bio | email
Time has run out for the Hyperion Energy Project. The company began laying the groundwork for its $10-billion green energy center half a dozen years ago.
However, the dirt has yet to turn, and their air quality permit expires Friday night.
People in Southeast South Dakota will breath a sigh of relief at midnight, when Hyperion Energy lets their air quality permit expire.
"I would like to see them disappear, completely," said Ben Quam, who owns land between Elk Point and Spink, South Dakota.
"It was well worth the opportunity to look into moving forward with that, but you soon learn that money should not be the main issue," said Quam.
At the first opportunity, Quam let those options go.
"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.
For Liz Merrigan of Spink, it was all about the environment.
"I don't think you plunk a polluting behemoth in the midst of pristine farmland," Merrigan said.
She 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.
For Quam, it was an expensive lesson. He's been waiting for five years to build his dream home, holding out to make sure land nearby wasn't turned into the 400-thousand barrels a day, oil refinery.
"You learn from your mistakes, we won't ever take an option like that again," Quam said.
Though the project promised to create 1,800 permanent jobs, the controversy surrounding it divided communities, churches, even families.
"It was a real shame how it came down to that," said Quam.
"I think it is very important for people in this community to step back, take a deep breath, reassess what is really important," added Merrigan.
Now, people hope to put the project in the past, and begin rebuilding the relationships in this once tight-knit town.
A statement released by the company Friday could cloud that optimism.
Hyperion Vice President Preston Phillips confirmed the company is considering filing a new application for an air permit.
That's instead of filing for an extension of the existing permit.
A spokesperson for the group that's sued Hyperion to stop the project, Save Union County, says the company faces an uphill battle getting a new permit approved.
"They have no ground, we have no knowledge that they have an oil pipeline, they have no infrastructure, and they have no funding. It will take a long time, if ever for them to get some if any of those items and we doubt very seriously if they could ever assemble the ground that they previously had," pointed out Ed Cable.
Phillips noted the company won't be starting over, but rather will build on the work that's gone into the project for nearly six years.
Hyperion has not determined when they'll file for the new permit, but Cable says Save Union County will be ready with another suit.
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