Landowners’ skepticism on climate hysteria looms over CO2 pipeline project

There’s only one reason to construct a carbon dioxide pipeline to dispose of emissions from ethanol plants in North Dakota, South Dakota and Minnesota — fear and loathing over climate change. But the company pushing the pipeline, Summit Carbon Solutions, has to tread carefully on that issue when making a pitch for an easement to cross the property of many landowners who just don’t buy it.

A top company official acknowledged the dilemma in a May meeting of the Yellow Medicine County Board covered in the West Central Tribune.

When Summit representatives meet one-on-one with landowners, and even at a recent public hearing hosted by the Minnesota Public Utilities Commission, there’s another topic that is emerging.

It was put on the record for the Public Utilities Commission by a county commissioner in Wilkin County, according to Caruso.

“I don’t like this project,” Caruso said, paraphrasing the commissioner’s on-the-record statement. “The reason I don’t like it is I don’t believe in the underlying premise of global warming.”

“That is an issue a lot of people have when we’ve been out with the landowners,” Caruso told the commissioners. “They fundamentally don’t believe it is a problem, and they fundamentally don’t believe the government should be solving a problem that is not a problem.”

Summit seeks to build three pipelines totaling nearly 240 miles in length in Minnesota alone, pumping emissions from 34 ethanol plants to be stored underground in North Dakota. The usual concerns surface in public and private meetings, such as pipeline safety and the impact on crop land. But skepticism over the need to install a pipeline in the first place increasingly comes up with many rural residents.

He emphasized that the company does not attempt to proselytize on the issue of climate change. For the ethanol industry, it is faced with seeing doors to its markets closed if it does not meet carbon reduction targets, he explained.

The company does not get into the argument over a transition to electric vehicles, either. The internal combustion engine will be part of the transition, and using ethanol as part of the fuel mix is important, he said.

Minnesota does not allow the use of eminent domain to force property owners to allow pipelines across their land, complicating Summit’s job. Yet the prospect of a payment for an easement hasn’t deterred some farmers from turning the company down, including a northwestern Minnesota landowner featured in Agweek.

That’s what Sharon Leinen did when Summit contacted her family about her farm property about 3 miles south of Breckenridge.

“They told me about the pipeline going in and they wanted to do some surveying on the land,” Leinen said in an interview before Tuesday’s meeting. “And I wasn’t for it right from the beginning.”

She declined their easement offer, where Summit offers to compensate landowners for the right to cross a piece of land.

Summit’s application for a permit for its first proposed pipeline in Otter Tail and Wilkin counties remains under review by the Minnesota Public Utilities Commission. The company plans to apply for approval for the two other Minnesota pipelines by the end of the year.