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MN Nears Next Step in Regulating Underground Carbon Pipelines


Friday, June 10, 2022   

The Minnesota Public Utilities Commission (PUC) announced it will soon accept public comments on drafting rules to regulate underground carbon-dioxide pipelines. The emerging technology is touted as a climate change solution, but environmental groups are skeptical.

The PUC recently declared it has regulatory authority over such pipelines, after it was initially believed only county governments in Minnesota had a say.

Maggie Schuppert, campaigns director for Clean Up the River Environment (CURE), said they are happy the state is getting involved, and think the projects are being rushed without enough public engagement.

"We haven't seen anything like these before, these kinds of pipelines and what they'll be carrying through them," Schuppert pointed out. "And so, there's just a huge amount of unknown risks and concerns, and that requires -- in some sense, we think -- an even stronger vetting and oversight process."

Companies like Summit Carbon Solutions want to capture carbon dioxide from ethanol plants and route it through pipelines in multiple states for underground storage.

Summit contends the PUC does not have authority in this case, prompting an unnecessary review. But the Commission said it's acting within its scope. It expects the public comment period to begin later in June or early July.

The Commission suggested there might be stronger demand for such projects in the future, and drafting rules makes sense. Schuppert acknowledged if permits are eventually filed, they might win approval. But CURE feels there should at least be a system in place for anyone to speak up.

"We think it's the bare minimum for them to give the public, give impacted people from communities, a process to which they can have input into," Schuppert contended. "And then also, you know, the really important role that they play in terms of requiring the companies to provide certain information."

The Summit project would cover portions of western Minnesota. Concerns voiced by environmental groups and tribal governments include pipelines rupturing and the potential impact on water sources. Summit said it is committed to working with the state. It said its project is safe and would be an economic boost to the region.

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