North Dakota county's pipeline ordinances taking effect

Burleigh County zoning regulations requiring companies building pipelines for carbon dioxide and other hazardous liquids to obtain a special permit and follow certain rules are taking effect.

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BISMARCK, N.D. — Burleigh County zoning regulations requiring companies building pipelines for carbon dioxide and other hazardous liquids to obtain a special permit and follow certain rules are taking effect after final passage.

County commissioners on Monday, March 20, voted 4-0 with one member absent to approve the ordinance. The Bismarck Tribune incorrectly reported that there would be a second reading and public hearing before a final vote.

That process was used for a related pipeline health and safety ordinance for hazardous liquid pipelines, which the commission approved on March 6. The process for the second ordinance differed because it went through the county's Planning and Zoning Commission, which held a public hearing lasting nearly five hours on March 8, according to County Commission Chair Becky Matthews.

The copious public comments from two early March meetings as well as conversations with other stakeholders gave county commissioners ample information to make a final decision on the zoning ordinance Monday night, Matthews said.

"I felt comfortable ... that we had the information we needed at that point to move to a vote," she said.


The pipeline health and safety ordinance was the first the commission dealt with under a new home rule charter approved by voters last November. It allows the county commission to adopt ordinances and also enables county residents to circulate petitions to get an ordinance on the ballot.

"This is really the first time going through this process," Matthews said.

The second ordinance was done not under the home rule charter but under the normal planning and zoning process, which does not require a second reading and public hearing at the commission level, according to Commissioner Brian Bitner.

The ordinances are in response to pushback from northern Burleigh County landowners to Summit Carbon Solution's planned Midwest Carbon Express pipeline, which would cross the county to the north of Bismarck. The pipeline is to transport climate-warming CO2 emissions from dozens of ethanol plants in five Midwestern states to North Dakota’s Oliver County for permanent storage underground.

Some landowners worry about their safety should the pipeline rupture. Summit says landowners have signed voluntary easement agreements accounting for 67% of the proposed pipeline route in the state and 85% of the proposed sequestration site — percentages it says show an "overwhelming level of support."

Commissioners on Monday indicated they believe the zoning ordinance is likely to prompt a lawsuit from Summit.

“They’re going to have issues with this no matter what,” Bitner said.

The company did not comment directly on whether it might sue, but Executive Vice President Wade Boeshans in a statement to the Tribune on Tuesday reiterated Summit's contention that local ordinances are unnecessary.


"For decades, the millions of miles of pipelines in active service across the United States, including the 30,000 miles in North Dakota, have been extensively regulated at both the federal and state levels, and those regulations preempt ordinances at the county level," he said. "Having a consistent process to oversee and regulate major infrastructure projects is important to ensure our economy continues to operate."

The county does not have any authority to stop the pipeline altogether. The North Dakota Public Service Commission will permit the route of the project, and the state Industrial Commission will permit the CO2 disposal site. Summit must also comply with federal regulations.

The North Dakota PSC held the first of four public hearings on the Summit project last week in Bismarck. A list of future hearings is at .


This story was written by one of our partner news agencies. Forum Communications Company uses content from agencies such as Reuters, Kaiser Health News, Tribune News Service and others to provide a wider range of news to our readers. Learn more about the news services FCC uses here.

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