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Lingering pipeline route questions troubling to South Dakota Public Utilities Commission

Iowa-based Summit Carbon Solutions says the pipeline will help ethanol plants lower their carbon score by capturing greenhouse gas emissions and piping them to western North Dakota for underground storage.

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PIERRE, S.D. — Questions over the exact route of the Summit Carbons Solutions pipeline through South Dakota have prompted the state's Public Utilities Commission to again delay finalizing who might all have a vested interest in the project.

In a meeting on Thursday, April 28, the PUC postponed finalizing the official list of intervenors as applications for party status have continued to be filed. Some applicants say they have only recently learned of the plan to build a hazardous materials pipeline through the eastern part of the state.

The official deadline for applying for party status was April 8, 60 days after Summit applied for its permit in South Dakota.

But Summit updated its route that same day, prompting some new applications. Other say they still can't tell from maps filed with the PUC exactly how close they are to the proposed route of the pipeline that will gather carbon dioxide from ethanol plants and send it to western North Dakota for underground storage.

“Because of the confusion of exactly where this route is, and I don’t like that confusion, we need to know, everybody needs to know what we are permitting, because of that I am willing to grant these late interventions,” Chris Nelson, chairman of the commission said before the vote to give staff more time to review the late applicants.

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Nelson said granting more time is unusual but “in this case, it is certainly justified.”

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According to PUC rules, "Intervenors are legally obligated to respond to discovery from other parties and to submit to cross-examination under oath at a formal hearing."

The pipeline concerns some farmers who have worries about damage to farmland and drain tile and the possible use of eminent domain to gain right-of-way for the pipeline. The pipeline is intended to connect to ethanol plants in five states: Iowa, Minnesota, Nebraska, North Dakota and South Dakota.

Summit says it will help reduce greenhouse gas emissions and help ethanol plants remain as viable businesses.

In other developments on the pipeline:

Request for more info: Iowa's Office of Consumer Advocate has asked the Iowa Utilities Board to require Summit to provide more information in its permit filing in that state.

The Office of Consumer Advocate is part of Iowa's Department of Commerce. Among the items it requested are a risk assessment, an emergency response plan and easement negotiation information.

Drilling test wells: Summit Carbon Solutions says it recently drilled two stratigraphic test wells in North Dakota to collect geology data for potential sequestration sites. The proposed storage area is northwest of Bismarck in Oliver and Mercer counties.

Reach Jeff Beach at jbeach@agweek.com or call 701-451-5651 (work) or 859-420-1177.
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