Setback for controversial carbon pipeline as North Dakota denies permit

The Iowa company backing what’s billed as the world’s biggest carbon capture pipeline just hit a roadblock, if not a dead end, in the state where the controversial project would terminate — North Dakota. Summit Carbon Solutions plans to pump CO2 emissions from 32 ethanol plants in Iowa, Minnesota, Nebraska, and the Dakotas to an underground repository in western North Dakota.

Summit originally hoped to get the massive project underway this year. But proponents suffered a significant setback when the North Dakota Public Service Commission voted unanimously to deny a permit to the $5 billion pipeline for reasons listed by Forum News.

–Summit did not sufficiently explore an alternate route south of Bismarck instead of east and north of the city. 

–Summit did not adequately explore route alternatives for some landowners along the route. 

–Summit did not adequately mitigate impacts of some waterfowl protection areas along the route. 

–The application did not adequately address impacts on cultural resources.

Commission Chairman Randy Christmann said after the vote that Summit could choose to start over and reapply or appeal the decision to the courts.

“My decision on this case is not indicative of my opinions regarding CO2 sequestration or importation of CO2 via pipeline at all,” Christmann said. “This is only about this project in this location under these circumstances.”

The pipeline came about in response to the federal government’s ever-expanding climate change regulations to curb CO2 emissions, along with massive taxpayer subsidies for mitigation efforts. Despite disappointment that North Dakota failed to become the first state to issue the pipeline a permit, the company made it clear the fight is far from over.

“Summit Carbon Solutions respects the decision by the North Dakota Public Service Commission, and we will revisit our proposal and reapply for our permit. We’re committed to understanding and incorporating the considerations outlined in the decision. We are confident that our project supports state policies designed to boost key economic sectors: agriculture, ethanol, and energy.”

Gov. Doug Burgum continues to defend the proposed 320 miles of pipeline in North Dakota as a boon to farmers and the rural economy, most recently on the campaign trail.

“People ask ‘what’s the beneficial good?’ The beneficial bit is that there are customers willing to pay for things like sustainable aviation fuel, and this is going to raise the income for every farmer in the Midwest,” said Burgum, who along with his wife, Kathryn, had lunch Sunday, July 30, with about a dozen Jasper County Republicans.

Burgum also supports having the state government invoke eminent domain, if necessary, to clear the way for the pipeline, despite objections of dozens of landowners. The company says roughly 20 percent of easements have not been voluntary, just one reason the project remains unpopular with some rural residents and farmers.

The hazardous liquid pipeline has met resistance from some landowners, such as Todd McMichael of Kindred, North Dakota, who cite potential problems such as damage to farmland, negative effects on property values, and safety hazards.

McMichael called the decision a win, but he knows the process isn’t over.

“I commend the Public Service Commission for doing what I felt is the correct response — work with landowners and go around Bismarck,” McMichael said.

It’s not clear how long the process of reapplying for a permit will delay the project and the inevitable showdown over it before the PSC.