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South Dakota sets Summit Carbon pipeline hearings for September

Iowa-based Summit Carbon Solutions says the carbon capture project will benefit the ethanol industry, but some farmers have concerns about damage to farmland and property values.

A map of the Summit Carbon Solutions pipeline project
A map of the Summit Carbon Solutions pipeline project as it travels into Iowa, Nebraska, South Dakota, North Dakota and Minnesota.
Troy Becker / The Forum
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PIERRE, S.D. — Summit Carbon Solutions, the company behind what it calls the world’s largest carbon capture project, will have to wait until September to get a hearing before the South Dakota Public Utilities Commission.

The South Dakota PUC on Thursday, Jan. 5, voted unanimously to set hearing dates for Sept. 11-22.

The pipeline routing case has generated an unprecedented amount of intervenors and public comments, with the controversial pipeline project drawing objections from some landowners along the route.

Iowa-based Summit says its $4.5 billion project will benefit the 32 ethanol plants along the five-state route, helping them tap into clean fuel markets such as California and Canada.

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

The 2,000 miles of pipe would capture greenhouse gas emissions from ethanol plants and send it to western North Dakota for underground storage. The main trunk of the pipeline would run through South Dakota, connecting six ethanol plants in the state.

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During Thursday’s hearing, Summit representatives said they needed a PUC permit decision by June 15, then later came back to say a ruling by Aug. 31 would be acceptable.

But the three-person commission stuck with a recommendation from its own staff members for the September dates.

In a December meeting, Summit had requested hearing dates in the spring.

Summit initially filed for a permit in South Dakota on Feb. 9, 2022. State statute spells out a one-year time frame for acting on the permit but applicants can ask for more time, which Summit did in May 2022.

By requesting more time, the timeline for a PUC decision became open-ended, with the PUC able to use its discretion in setting hearing dates.

Carbon capture coverage
Summit says proceedings could start in March; other parties ask Iowa Utilities Board for more time.

“We have to consider all of the circumstances that are involved and that includes other hearings that we have scheduled, other dockets that have statutory deadlines,” Commissioner Chris Nelson said.

There are about 478 miles of the pipeline planned for South Dakota. Summit said in November it has obtained voluntary easements for more than half the route.

Other landowners remain holdouts, with concerns about safety, lost agricultural production and property values. Many landowners are concerned about the use of eminent domain, with the courts possibly forcing landowners to provide right-of-way.

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The PUC does not rule on eminent domain.

Summit’s original timeline laid out beginning construction in 2023 and being operational in 2024.

A Summit attorney at a Minnesota hearing on Thursday said construction is now likely for the first quarter of 2024 .

042720.AG.Ethanol Roundup04.jpg
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

Before Thursday’s hearing, some ethanol officials in South Dakota issued statements through Summit.

“For years, the ethanol industry has served as the critical customer for corn growers in the state of South Dakota and across the Midwest, helping drive growth in commodity prices and land values in the process,” said Walt Wendland, president and CEO of Ringneck Energy in Onida. “Carbon capture projects like Summit Carbon Solutions are absolutely vital to ensuring ethanol producers remain competitive in the years and decades to come. Simply put, the future of the ethanol industry is uncertain at best without these critical investments in our infrastructure and delays in the regulatory process could come at a significant cost.”

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