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North Dakota county throws 100% voluntary easement mandate, $135 million fee at Summit Carbon pipeline

Summit Carbons Solutions has described its five-state, 2,000 mile carbon capture pipeline as being a $4.5 billion project. A 3% fee passed by Emmons County could amount to $135 million. Iowa-based Summit Carbon Solutions says the pipeline will help ethanol plants lower their carbon score. The project aims to capture greenhouse gas emissions and pipe the CO2 to western North Dakota for underground storage.

Summit Carbon Solution logo
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LINTON, N.D. — A North Dakota county on the main line of a massive carbon capture pipeline has created some additional hurdles for the company behind the project – Summit Carbon Solutions.

The Emmons County Commission passed two motions to update requirements for being granted an industrial conditional use permit:

  • Any necessary easements from landowners must be voluntary. 
  • The fee for the permit has been changed to 3% of the total project cost. 

Summit Carbons Solutions has described its five-state, 2,000 mile carbon capture pipeline as being a $4.5 billion project. A 3% fee on the total project could amount to $135 million.
The fee had previously had been $450.

Summit’s Midwest Carbon Express would capture carbon emissions from 32 ethanol plants. The main line, at 24 inches in diameter, would run through Emmons County, on its way to western North Dakota, where the carbon would be stored underground.

Joey Borracci of Summit Carbon Solutions was at the Aug. 2 meeting to discuss a conditional use permits for a pump station along the route in Emmons County and other aspects of the project.

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Also in the room was a group of landowners opposed the project and Commissioner Leonard Weichel shifted the discussion to whether the county board should be spending time on a project so unpopular with residents.

“The majority of the people don’t want to see this happen and they have good reason for that,” Weichel said of the project.

Many landowners in all five states – Iowa, Minnesota, Nebraska, North Dakota and South Dakota – have been vocal in opposing the pipeline, especially the use of eminent domain to force landowners to provide a right-of-way for the pipeline.

Emmons County had previously passed a resolution against the use of eminent domain for the pipeline, one of several North Dakota counties to do so .

But Commission Chairman Erin Magrum proposed taking it further.

“I don’t know that we can flat out deny a project that hasn’t been applied for,” Magrum said, adding that he would have a hard time approving a permit for a project where even one affected landowner objects.

But, Magrum said, “we can make it difficult to approve this eminent domain.”

Summit ND route.png

Borracci said Summit Carbon Solutions, a spinoff of Iowa-based Summit Agricultural Group, had done more than 2,000 reroutes already and were doing about 200 reroutes every week trying to work with landowners.

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“These are agricultural guys,” Borracci said of Summit leadership. Summit has promoted the project as benefitting ethanol plants by allowing them to sell fuel into low-carbon fuel markets, such as California and Canada, and getting a premium price. Summit also notes other economic and environmental benefits.

As of Aug. 5, Summit reported 1,400 landowners had signed voluntary easements, about half of those in Iowa.

In a statement provided to Agweek, Wade Boeshans, executive vice president at Summit Carbon Solutions, who is based in North Dakota, said this:

“Linear infrastructure projects like Summits’ project are critical to the future of ag and energy, North Dakota’s largest economic sectors, and the livelihood of North Dakotans. Opponents of modern agriculture and traditional energy have mobilized and are activating landowners against the project using misinformation to incite landowners to fight for property rights. Summit Carbon Solutions will continue to work with local leaders and landowners to identify and address local concerns that are at the root of the changes to Emmons County conditional use permit requirements. To date, the company has signed agreements with more than 450 North Dakota landowners including more than half of the landowners on the pipeline route in Emmons County and more are being secured every day. This significant level of progress is being made because the company’s efforts to work with local stakeholders and the multi-billion-dollar infrastructure investment will open new economic opportunities for ethanol producers, strengthen the agricultural marketplace for corn growers, and generate tens of millions of dollars in new property tax revenues that will help local communities support critical priorities like our schools.”

But Emmons commissioners noted the calls, email and presence of county residents opposed to the project, which would pump liquid carbon dioxide, a hazardous material, at high pressure, through the county.

More carbon capture coverage
Iowa-based Summit Carbon Solutions says its $4.5 billion pipeline project will help ethanol plants, including the Green Plains Ethanol plant at Fergus Falls, Minnesota, lower their carbon scores. The project aims to capture greenhouse gas emissions and pipe the CO2 to western North Dakota for underground storage.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture will invest nearly $3 billion in projects to reduce climate-harming emissions from farming and forestry, tripling the funding it had initially envisioned for the program, the agency announced on Wednesday, Sept. 14.
Iowa-based Summit Carbon Solutions says its $4.5 billion pipeline project will help ethanol plants lower their carbon score. The project aims to capture greenhouse gas emissions and pipe the CO2 to western North Dakota for underground storage.

Magrum suggested raising the permit fee, noting that the large project would generate extra work for county staff and perhaps require hiring an outside consultant with expertise in pipeline construction to make sure the project was being done properly.

It was Weichel who made the motion to set the fee at 3% of the project cost. Magrum said he wanted to do more research before setting a percentage and voted against the change, but it passed on a 3-2 vote.

After the meeting, Magrum confirmed that the fee would not just apply to the Emmons County portion of the project.

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"At this point, it would encompass the entire project," Magrum said.

Eliot Huggins with the Dakota Resource Council, an environmental group helping organize opposition to the project, said the action in Emmons County could be a model for other counties and be more effective than a resolution against eminent domain.

"Taking it another step further, that’s going to be the goal," Huggins said.

In other recent pipeline developments:

  • In filings with the Iowa Utilities Board, Summit Carbon Solutions has begun identifying properties in Iowa where it intends to use eminent domain to gain right-of-way. 
  • The Iowa Utilities Board has approved a series of public meetings on the proposed Wolf Carbon Solutions pipeline, which is being planned in partnership with ADM. 
Reach Jeff Beach at jbeach@agweek.com or call 701-451-5651 (work) or 859-420-1177.
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