That Dinner Issue

The Sioux City Journal posts an article this morning about the DENR Board of Minerals & Environment’s dinner with Hyperion at Whimp’s in Burbank on the Wednesday evening of Hyperion’s contested case for an air quality permit:

ELK POINT, S.D. — Who’s dining where and with whom has become a topic of discussion among proponents and opponents of the oil refinery and energy center proposed for Union County by Hyperion Refining, a Texas company.

At least it’s a big enough topic of conversation that South Dakota Attorney General Larry Long has become aware of it. Long told the Journal on Friday that he believes both sides in the battle over whether Hyperion should be granted an air quality permit for the $10 billion, 400,000-barrel-per-day project have filed complaints over dining arrangements with the South Dakota Department of Environment and Natural Resources’ Board of Minerals and Environment.[Linck, Michelle. “Board’s dining arrangements sparks complaints.” 18 April 2009.]

I’m pleased to see that the Attorney General has been notified and complaints have been filed–though I’m not sure what the proponents’ side has to complain about in this matter. The most obvious reason for a filing by proponents about lunch at Los Amigos on Thursday is to try to offset the Whimp’s issue of the night before–though my sources indicate Hyperion was also dining at Los Amigos on Thursday at the same time as the Board.

That board will make the final decision on the permit and was in Elk Point on Wednesday and Thursday, taking public comments on the issue. Members of the nine-member board were seen sharing a table Wednesday night at Whimps Place, a restaurant in nearby Burbank, S.D., that Long described as “very popular and very small.” A speaker at the evening session of the board’s public comment session asked what impression the public was to take from that and was reportedly booed for his inference.

Hyperion spokesman Eric Williams said a group of Hyperion executives, their attorneys and others went to Whimps, sat down at a table, then were asked to move because the table was reserved. So they sat at the one large table in the small restaurant. Then the board came in and sat at the other end, as is the custom at Whimps when the booths are filled.

As anyone who was actually at the hearing would know, the speaker who commented on the dinner that evening was a woman, and many of those who were booing in the audience (and I was among them) were NOT booing her–we were booing the Board.

It’s just that the Board didn’t seem to get that they themselves were being shamed for the appearance of impropriety. I guess they’re so used to the mannerliness that often characterizes Midwestern folks, that they couldn’t see that we are sick and tired of those who supposedly represent us being so utterly callous to our interests.

Yes, it’s a small town, and yes, there aren’t a lot of places to eat. But it is not OK to then assume that opponents of the Hyperion Refinery will just understand that they HAD to share a table. If, in fact, the Board did come in later and found table space limited–shouldn’t all those lawyers among them have considered the adage about dispensing both justice AND the appearance of justice?


5 responses to this post.

  1. Posted by dmu on April 18, 2009 at 10:35 am

    I’m glad the SCJ picked up on this story. This is not the first time that Hyperion and the State have dined together. They are working side by side in their efforts to get this air permit approved. And a whole lot of unethical behavior has taken place in the last couple of years. For them to eat together, without even giving it a thought, tells you that this has taken place before. It’s apparent they are pretty “buddy buddy” with this group.

    How can the board make a fair decision on the air permit ? That would be impossible. And this is the bunch that we are suppose to “trust” when they tell us that….”don’t worry we have other permitting processes, etc. that will cover ALL the things that an environmental impact statement would reveal!”

    Yeah, right!

  2. Good work getting out the news, Flying Tomato! Have any SD papers mentioned it?

  3. Posted by flyingtomato on April 18, 2009 at 3:24 pm

    I keep checking the Argus–thinking maybe they’d get on their own state’s news. Alas…. Maybe check the Akron Hometowner–but wait–they’re in Iowa too. That should be a clue to refinery proponents that Iowans are watching this too, and we’ll have to answer to them should we foul their air and water resources.

  4. Posted by diamond cutter on April 18, 2009 at 7:56 pm

    dining at the same place once is probable, but twice is not. evidently the words ethics, impropriety, and appearance do not mean anything to BM&E or Hyperion. and one wonders why everyone says this is a SLAM DUNK for Hyperion. how about the fact that the governor on thursday granted D&I railroad $6.3 million to build a railroad improvement from Canton to Elk Point. we are being taken to the cleaners BIG TIME folks. this is unconsionable.

  5. Posted by flyingtomato on April 19, 2009 at 8:00 am

    While dining at the same place may be difficult to avoid in that area–sitting at the same table is a bad idea, and every lawyer on that Board should have known that and either gone elsewhere, or figured out other arrangements within the restaurant.

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