Union County approves zoning ordinance for Hyperion (New Refinery)
ELK POINT, S.D. -- Flashing a smile, Joyce Bortscheller briefly hugged Hyperion Energy Center executive Preston Phillips as she greeted him in the backyard of her home here. Bortscheller, president of the Elk Point City Council, had invited about 250 supporters to an outdoor barbecue Tuesday to await the returns for arguably the most important election in Union County's history. The big crowd didn't leave disappointed. As midnight approached, they popped the champagne corks, celebrating a hard-fought victory that keeps alive the county's chances of landing the nation's first all-new oil refinery in 32 years. By a solid 58 percent to 42 percent margin, county voters approved Hyperion's request to rezone 3,292 acres of farm land for a new classification, Energy Center Planned Development.
"What happened tonight, we were not supposed to be able to do," Phillips told a cheering audience. "Development projects like this are supposed to be outright rejected by residents and neighbors. But this project is a testament to our balancing the needs for growth and for protecting the environment."
At stake was billions of dollars in capital investment and thousands of high-paying jobs. From the beginning, Hyperion executives said they would abandon its Union County site, just north of Elk Point, if a majority of voters failed to give their blessing to the rezoning.
While conceding defeat, opponents vowed to keep fighting the controversial project on every imaginable front, pressing on with a lawsuit it filed against the county over the zoning procedures and opposing Hyperion as it applies for a bevy of state and federal permits.