Iowa approval gives big boost to controversial CO2 pipeline to North Dakota

More than two and a half years after filing for a permit, Summit Carbon Solutions has finally gotten crucial approval from Iowa regulators for the first leg of a nearly 700 mile long pipeline to send liquified CO2 emissions for underground storage in North Dakota. The proposed pipeline would carry emissions from some 57 ethanol plants in Iowa, Nebraska, Minnesota, North Dakota and South Dakota for underground disposal as soon as 2026, according to Agweek.

Summit Carbon Solutions initially filed a permit application in Iowa in January 2022. The Tuesday decision followed a 32-month long process in which the board heard tens of thousands of pages of testimony and exhibits, heard testimony from more than 200 witnesses, and admitted approximately 4,180 comments, objections, and letters of support filed in the docket, including approximately 600 comments filed after the deadline set by Iowa law.

According to the Board, “the service to be provided by Summit Carbon will promote the public convenience and necessity.” Because it was found that the public benefits outweigh the public and private costs of the project, it was then determined that Summit Carbon Solutions were granted permission to use the right of eminent domain to complete the project.

To be sure, there’s still a long way to go in the regulatory process before the project gets off the ground in Iowa, as well as the other states.

Additionally, as part of the order, Summit Carbon will be required to submit numerous revised exhibits as compliance filings for the board’s review, prior to the board issuing the permit or Summit Carbon commencing construction. Several conditions will be attached to the permit as well, including but not limited to requiring Summit Carbon to obtain and maintain at least a $100 million insurance policy, comply with certain construction methods, and ensure landowners and tenants are compensated for damages that may result from the construction of Summit Carbon’s hazardous liquid pipeline.

Moreover, construction will not get underway in Iowa until Summit Carbon obtains the necessary approvals in both North and South Dakota. While there’s been movement in North Dakota, the company needs to start from scratch in South Dakota after its application was rejected by regulators.

This comes on the heels of successful reapplication hearings for Summit’s North Dakota pipeline permit in front of the North Dakota Public Service Commission. The North Dakota Supreme Court also ruled in May that the company has the right to enter private lands to conduct surveys and examinations in preparation for the construction of the pipeline.

After South Dakota denied a permit last fall, the company looks to refile for an application.

“The momentum will continue as we prepare to file our South Dakota permit application in early July,” said Lee Blank, chief executive officer of Summit Carbon Solutions, in a statement. “We look forward to engaging with the state throughout this process and are confident in a successful outcome.”

Pipeline opponents maintain there’s still a possibility of holding it up on environmental grounds at the next level of permitting.

Jim Walsh, policy director for Food and Water Watch, believes that the proposed pipeline poses substantial risks to public safety.

“While the company has won this round in Iowa, this is not the end of the line. There are still decisions at the federal and state levels that will determine whether this dangerous pipeline is ever built,” he said. “The Iowa Utilities Board approval of this dangerous project underscores the urgent need for the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration to update the outdated regulations for carbon dioxide pipelines before any other authorizations are issued.”

For now, however, Summit Carbon Solutions appears to have the momentum as it seeks regulatory approval in the adjoining states.