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Carbon Storage Plans Prompt Concerns in Tribal Areas

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Monday, January 3, 2022   

A Midwestern company is trying to gain support for a multi-state project involving capturing carbon from ethanol plants and moving it underground for storage. In the public debate, advocates for tribal communities say their voices should not be ignored.

Summit Carbon Solutions wants to construct a pipeline through five states before the carbon dioxide is stored underground in North Dakota.

Supporters of carbon-capture technology say it benefits the environment.

Brian Jorde, managing lawyer at the Domina Law Firm, who is involved in legal strategies to fight such projects, says there are too many unknowns.

"How can these companies guarantee that there won't be a catastrophic disaster in the future when they really have no idea what the formations will look like?" Jorde questioned.

He suggested there is no way of knowing yet if the carbon will move beyond storage boundaries. Jorde spoke at a recent forum hosted by the Great Plains Action Society, along with regional tribal leaders.

They say the projects not only threaten landowners, but could also affect water and other resources for Indigenous communities, even if the pipes run near their lands and not through them. Summit insists it will ensure meaningful consultation with tribes.

Lisa DeVille, a Dakota Resource Council board member representing group affiliate Fort Berthold POWER, said the Summit project appears similar in size and scope to the Dakota Access oil pipeline. She pointed out she has seen too many spills in her state, and wondered if carbon storage would result in similar effects.

"This pipeline project is no different than any pipeline project industry is going to say, 'This is the best and safest project ever,' when in reality, all pipelines spill or break," DeVille contended.

Environmental and tribal groups said residents along the proposed route must be informed, and urged them to speak up.

They argued Summit is moving fast to convince landowners to agree to land easements. The company describes the pipeline as the largest carbon capture and storage project in the world and would safely store up to 12 million tons of CO2 annually.

Disclosure: Dakota Resource Council contributes to our fund for reporting on Climate Change/Air Quality, Energy Policy, Environment, and Rural/Farming Issues. If you would like to help support news in the public interest, click here.


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