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Summit Carbon Solutions and South Dakota farmer sue 2 counties

Iowa-based Summit Carbon Solutions says its $4.5 billion pipeline project will help ethanol plants. The five-state project aims to capture greenhouse gas emissions and pipe the CO2 to western North Dakota for underground storage.

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PIERRE, S.D. — Summit Carbon Solutions has sued two South Dakota counties as it pushes ahead with its plans for a five-state carbon capture pipeline that it says will benefit ethanol plants.

Ronald Alverson, a resident of Lake County, South Dakota, is joining Summit Carbon Solutions in the lawsuits against the county commissions in Brown County and Edmunds County, two of the 18 counties where the pipeline would run.

A map of the Summit Carbon Solutions proposed pipeline route through South Dakota.
Summit Carbon Solutions proposed pipeline route through South Dakota.
Summit Carbon Solutions

According to court documents, Alverson is a farmer and founder of Dakota Ethanol in Lake County, which is one of 32 ethanol plants that would connect to the pipeline. He also is an investor in several other ethanol plants that stand to gain from the Summit’s plan to capture greenhouse gas emissions and pipe them to western North Dakota for underground storage.

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Glacial Lakes Ethanol LLC at Watertown, South Dakota, is one of the ethanol plants that would connect to the proposed Summit Carbon Solutions pipeline.
Mikkel Pates / Agweek

Alverson and Summit, using the name SCS Carbon Transport, are suing the Brown County Board of Commissioners over a moratorium on hazardous waste pipelines in the county. Brown County, with Aberdeen as the county seat, passed the moratorium on July 19.

The lawsuit notes that the moratorium was passed to “to promote the health, safety, and general welfare of the County,” but goes on to say that the federal government has the ultimate authority on safety of interstate pipelines. For that reason, it says the moratorium should be declared null and void.

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The fee increases include a fee for each mile of pipeline, increasing from $1,800 to $100,000, a more than 5,455% increase. Fees for a hazardous utility permit increased from $250 to $5,000 and for each road crossing increased from $1,500 to $50,000.

Summit also is asking a court to strike down large pipeline fee increases that Edmunds County voted to impose. The county, with Ipswich as the county seat, also passed a resolution against construction of the pipeline.

“Because the main artery of the pipeline is planned to run through Edmunds County, the full interstate pipeline cannot be completed or placed into operation,” while the resolution is in place, the lawsuit says.

Like Brown County’s moratorium, the Edmunds resolution cites safety concerns.

The lawsuit says the resolution should be ruled invalid and that the court should prevent the county from increasing the permit fees, which amount to an unlawful tax.

The lawsuits were filed Oct. 27 in U.S. District Court, South Dakota Central Division, in Pierre.

More carbon capture coverage
Iowa-based Summit Carbon Solutions says its $4.5 billion pipeline project will help ethanol plants. The project aims to capture greenhouse gas emissions and pipe the CO2 to western North Dakota for underground storage.
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.
Navigator CO2 Ventures on Tuesday, Oct. 25, 2022, filed the application for the Heartland Greenway project with the Iowa Utilities Board. Other states on the route are South Dakota, Minnesota, Nebraska and Illinois, with a site in Illinois designated for storing the liquid carbon dioxide. South Dakota-based POET has 18 ethanol plants included in the project.

In the documents, Summit lays out arguments for the importance of ethanol for the South Dakota economy and for corn growers and how the pipeline would help the industry. Summit says the ethanol plants will be able to sell more corn-based fuel in markets that have adopted low carbon fuel standards, such as California and Canada.

Opponents of the pipeline include landowners concerned about personal property rights, those concerned about public safety and environmentalists who say the pipeline construction would do more harm than good.

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In other carbon pipeline news:

  • Summit Carbon Solutions says it has obtained voluntary easements for 1,030 miles of pipeline, more than half of its route through Iowa, Minnesota, Nebraska, North Dakota and South Dakota. 
  • The chair of the North Dakota Public Service Commission is recusing herself from the Summit Carbon Solutions permit application process in the state. Julie Fedorchak says she and her husband own land in Oliver County and have signed a contract with Summit to store carbon dioxide on their land.
  • Shelby County in Iowa has passed a zoning ordinance that limits how close a hazardous liquid pipeline could be built to schools, churches, hospitals and nursing homes, requiring a half-mile setback, Iowa Public Radio reports
Reach Jeff Beach at jbeach@agweek.com or call 701-451-5651 (work) or 859-420-1177.
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