Northeast Nebraska county delivers blow to plans for carbon pipeline

Northeast Nebraska county delivers blow to plans for carbon pipeline
Summit Carbon Solutions plans to build a 2,000-mile network of CO2 pipelines across the Midwest to capture carbon produced by ethanol plants and then sequester it underground in North Dakota. (Courtesy of Summit Carbon Solutions)

A rural Nebraska county delivered a blow Tuesday to plans by an Iowa corporation to build a pipeline carrying carbon dioxide across the state.

On a 3-0 vote, the Stanton County Board denied a conditional use permit for Summit Carbon Solutions, which is seeking to build a CO2 pipeline from more than 50 ethanol plants in the Midwest to a sequestration site in North Dakota.

Stanton County Clerk Wanda Heermann said commissioners stated that they needed more information about the health risks and possible foreign ownership of the company and that they wanted to see more public education and consideration of alternative routes.

Summit, Heermann said, would have to reapply for a conditional use permit if it wants to cross the northeast Nebraska county.

No one testified for the project
One Stanton County landowner who opposes the project noted that not one landowner testified in favor of the pipeline prior to the county board’s vote Tuesday.

“I want it to be advertised that counties, or at least one, as of now was presented with this decision and denied it — unanimously denied,” said Justin Kennedy, a member of an opposition group, the Nebraska Easement Action Team. It is a wing of the Bold Alliance, which led the opposition to the crude-oil Keystone XL pipeline.

A Summit spokeswoman said the company “respects the decision of the Stanton County Commissioners and will address their feedback.”

“More than 90% of the landowners in Stanton County have signed voluntary easement agreements, demonstrating broad understanding and support of the project,” said spokeswoman Sabrina Ahmed Zenor.

Dakota County delays vote

Also Tuesday, the Dakota County Planning and Zoning Commission tabled until April a decision on whether to recommend approval of a county conditional use permit for Summit. Commissioners said they needed more information, according to Joe O’Neill, the county’s zoning administrator.

Last fall, Summit Carbon Solutions announced it was postponing its project until 2026 because of opposition to the $5.5 billion, 2,000-mile CO2 pipeline. It is the largest carbon pipeline being proposed in the region and would pass through Iowa, North and South Dakota and Minnesota, as well as Nebraska.

Proponents of corn-based ethanol have touted the plan to capture and sequester CO2 produced by ethanol plants as a way to make the fuel more environmentally friendly and ensure a market for the fuel into the future. Billions in federal funds have been set aside to help capture the greenhouse gases.

Pipeline rupture in 2020

Opponents have questioned the safety of the high-pressure, liquid pipeline, pointing to a pipeline rupture in Satartia, Mississippi, in 2020 that caused an evacuation and sent several people to the hospital. Questions have also been raised about whether the technology of sequestering carbon in deep underground formations is sound.

Opposition has been especially strong in Iowa and South Dakota.

In a press release, Bold Alliance said one of the Stanton County commissioners, Doug Huttman, asked Summit at Tuesday’s meeting for a model of how CO2 would disperse and flow in the event of a rupture.

Nebraska has no state regulations concerning carbon pipelines, but counties that have zoning ordinances require companies to obtain conditional use permits to build in that county.

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