Oil & Water

Oil and water don’t mix, and neither should the Clay Rural Water System mix with Hyperion, according to popular sentiment among the audience at tonight’s Rural Water meeting.

At issue is a request from Hyperion for Clay Rural Water System, Inc. to supply between nine and fifteen million gallons of water per day for the proposed refinery near Elk Point.  About forty citizens were in attendance, with comment limited to those supplied by the rural water district (and one comment from a woman who has been waiting for several years to be hooked up).

Of the fourteen who took the podium to address the board, not one offered support for the request, which at this point entails the outlay of Clay Rural Water System funds (that is, rural water customers’ funds) for all of the expenses of studies and infrastructure required to provide the water Hyperion says it might need.

However, five of the eight board members in attendance still voted in favor–not of providing for Hyperion’s request–but for “investigating further.”  There was a note of disappointment in the crowd on the vote–clearly, the members had spoken, and they’d wanted a decisive and unanimous “no” from the board.

Still, it was heartening to hear all the rural residents, who are not impressed or overwhelmed by the airy promises of jobs, development, and MONEY that Hyperion has continually made at all levels of state government here in South Dakota.

Commenters invoked our clean air, high quality of life, and our low unemployment rates–our amazing and precious natural resources, and our water, our precious clean water, that Clay Rural Water Systems manages for the good of the community–not for land developers from Texas.

One of my favorite comments of the evening was humorous quip about how Hyperion came here talking about BILLIONS–and we’ve seen in the last few weeks on the federal stage how that kind of money comes and goes.  There were a few real tear-jerker comments as well, and it was not just empty emotion: it was built on the collective feeling of all we have and all we stand to lose.

What struck me about this meeting was not only the overwhelming consensus of the people present–it was that the Rural Water Board, though voting to investigate further, was clearly aware of and acknowledged that consensus.

While governing bodies in Pierre, Union County, and even our own Vermillion City Council seem to be falling over themselves to welcome these Hyperion hucksters, one hopes that cooler and wiser intellects will prevail–those of the rural residents who made their voices heard tonight.


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