Congratulations Union County

Monday, June 9, 2008

Although the national media was focused on the presidential primary elections on Tuesday evening, an even more historic vote was taking place in South Dakota.

Voters in Union County in the southeast corner of South Dakota approved a rezoning referendum that could result in the first oil refinery being built in the United States in more than three decades.

The referendum was approved by a wider margin than anticipated -- 3,932 yes votes to 2,855 no votes.

Perhaps the event got little national press because the vote does not ensure that the project will actually happen. There are hearings and possible court challenges before state and federal permits are issued and construction of the $8 billion plant can begin. The target of late this year to obtain those permits is rather optimistic.

We hope that those who vowed to carry the fight forward if the referendum was approved will reconsider their position in light of the high level of support the refinery has.

There will be many environmental safeguards built into the process of obtaining permits, as there should be, but still, a massive facility covering 2,000 acres and processing 400,000 barrels of crude oil piped in from Canada will have some environmental risks.

We expect the DNR and the EPA to require a reasonably safe and clean facility, but beyond the environmental impact, a way of life in Union County and in the tri-state area will be affected.

Most people believe this affect will be positive. Economic development is a goal of communities throughout the world. Still, there are people who live in rural areas because they prefer living in an undeveloped area.

We sympathize with that viewpoint but the overwhelming majority of Union County voters have expressed a wish for development. We hope they get their wish.