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Like Neighboring States, Carbon Pipeline Scrutiny Ramps Up in SD

Story by: Mike Moen

This month and next, South Dakota regulators are holding hearings about proposed underground pipelines which would carry carbon dioxide for underground storage. Environmental groups with concerns about the approach are keeping a watchful eye.

This month, the Public Utilities Commission hears testimony on a permit application from Navigator CO2, which wants to include South Dakota in a multistate pipeline moving carbon emissions from agriculture facilities for underground storage in Illinois.

Guy Larson, chair of the South Dakota chapter of the Sierra Club, said they remain leery of large-scale efforts to decarbonize ethanol production.

“The Sierra Club sees the whole process as another way to extend the life of fossil fuels,” Larson pointed out.

Opponents also worry about damage to farmland and potential pipeline ruptures. Project officials tout environmental and economic benefits, and insist there will be strong safeguards. Hearings on a similar proposal from Summit Carbon Solutions are scheduled for next month. The project calls for carbon to be stored underground in North Dakota, but regulators there just rejected Summit’s siting permit.

Summit plans to reapply, but North Dakota regulators noted in its first application, the company failed to show that key elements of the project would produce minimal adverse effects on the environment and the public.

Larson suggested those same questions remain as South Dakota’s proceedings move forward.

“We have a lot of concerns about the safety, about what happens to it after the life of this program,” Larson noted. “About whether or not the sequestration is actually a viable way to dispose of the carbon dioxide.”

Complicating matters are emerging federal incentives for carbon capture, helping to spur private ventures like these. But opponents said because of the unknowns, more emphasis should be placed on transitioning to renewable energy.

The Public Utilities Commission is expected to continue Navigator’s permit hearing on Aug. 24. Hearings for the Summit project begin Sept. 11.

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