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MN Sets Application Rules for Carbon Pipeline Review


Friday, January 6, 2023   

Minnesota regulators are putting together plans to review a proposed carbon pipeline for the western part of the state.

A meeting held Thursday set some conditions for considering the application, amid local concerns. Summit Carbon Solutions wants to capture carbon dioxide from ethanol plants and transport it via pipeline through several states, including Minnesota, then store it underground in North Dakota.

Environmental groups have said this approach has too many unknowns - and farmers, such as Ted Winter, worry about the impact on agricultural land.

"They've got to rip up the topsoil, and that takes many years to get back into the position it was before it went through there," he said. "So, there's a lot of concerns with what's going to happen to the actual land the farmers own."

Winter, also a Minnesota Farmers Union board member, argued that producers who agree to land easements might only get a one-time payment, while companies behind these projects see more financial benefits.

The Public Utilities Commission voted to include a full Environmental Impact Statement for Summit's application. A representative for the company argued that pipeline review rules already have a sufficient way of considering environmental factors.

During the hearing, PUC chair Katie Sieben noted that, since this is a new kind of project for Minnesota and with documented concerns from the public, the state should play it safe by adding the environmental component to the process.

"When there are real procedural conflicts at the front end about how to proceed," she said, "my mind goes to, 'It's better to do it right the first time than have to do it again.'"

Attorney Christy Brusven, representing Summit, suggested that a longer review would cut into the mission of the project.

"There's also an urgency to take this carbon dioxide out of the air," she said, "and so, we want to make sure that we're proceeding in a measured way."

More broadly, environmental groups have said carbon capture might work in theory, but they worry about it being scaled up too fast without more knowledge of its safety, impact on water and other issues.

Disclosure: Minnesota Farmers Union contributes to our fund for reporting on Climate Change/Air Quality, Energy Policy, Health Issues, Rural/Farming. If you would like to help support news in the public interest, click here.

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