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Nov '23

What is the future of the proposed carbon pipelines in Iowa? – Quad-City Times

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DES MOINES — Companies seeking to build carbon-capture pipelines across the Midwest have faced a range of regulatory hurdles this year as they push on with the projects they say will benefit Iowa’s ethanol industry and economy.
Two companies — Summit Carbon Solutions and Wolf Carbon Solutions U.S. — propose projects that will capture the CO2 emitted at ethanol plants and send it underground for storage, taking advantage of lucrative federal tax credits and low-carbon fuel markets. A third company, Navigator CO2 Ventures, suspended its planned pipeline last month after facing regulatory challenges.
As Summit awaits a decision over its application from the Iowa Utilities Board, its initial applications in two other states have been denied, and other companies have met opposition elsewhere.
The projects have encountered resistance from environmentalists, who argue they are not a serious solution to greenhouse gas emissions, and from landowners opposed to the use of eminent domain to involuntarily take land for the projects.
Jerry and Susan Stoefen stand on their property next to a sign opposing CO2 pipelines in this Dec. 3, 2022, file photo. The couple received notice from Wolf Carbon Solutions that its pipeline could go through their land.
Critics also point to safety concerns over the potential for a carbon-capture pipeline to rupture. A Danbury CO2 pipeline burst near Satartia, Mississippi, and caused the evacuation of the town and sickened dozens of residents in 2020.
Ethanol and agriculture industry leaders, though, say the projects will be vital to the industry’s continued success in the coming decades as more states and countries demand low-carbon fuels in an effort to combat climate change. Being able to sequester carbon produced in the manufacturing process will give ethanol producers the opportunity to sell their product at a premium.
“We are very close to unlocking a massive new market that would make the ethanol boom of the early 2000s pale in comparison,” Iowa Renewable Fuels Association President Monte Shaw said. “But we also have people who want us to throw that key away.”
Summit Carbon Solutions, which has proposed a multi-state pipeline that will cross 721 miles in Iowa, this month finished an eight-week hearing filled with hours of testimony from company officials, dozens of concerned landowners and industry experts.
The $5.5 billion pipeline is proposed to cover 2,000 miles total across Iowa, North Dakota, South Dakota, Minnesota and Nebraska.
Verle Tate (left), a Wright County landowner, testified Aug. 29, 2023 at the Summit Carbon Solutions evidentiary hearing. (Screenshot from IUB livestream)
North Dakota’s Public Service Commission denied the company’s initial request for a permit in the state in August after hearing concerns from impacted landowners. In September, the panel granted Summit a request to reconsider their application.
In South Dakota, regulators denied the company’s permit request in September because the proposed project violated a handful of county ordinances in the state. Summit said it would submit a new request there and work with counties to comply with their requirements.
Summit Carbon Solutions CEO Lee Blank said the opposition from regulators in other states had required the company to shift its strategy as it worked to comply with various states’ rules.
“There’s certainly a lot of work here, and I don’t think we underestimated the amount of work,” he said.
Opponents of the pipelines’ construction said they were encouraged by the testimony presented by opposing landowners at the hearing in Iowa, and they think the Iowa Utilities Board should deny the pipeline permit.
Summit Carbon Solutions intends to build more than 2,000 miles of carbon dioxide pipeline. (Courtesy of Summit Carbon Solutions)
Iowa law requires entities seeking to build hazardous liquid pipelines to prove they “promote the public convenience and necessity,” something the opponents say was not shown at the hearing. And while Iowa law authorizes the use of eminent domain for carbon-capture pipelines, the pipeline’s opponents argued that eminent domain should not be used in the service of private companies.
They point to the fact that the profits from the projects will go to private investors and concerns around the safety of the pipelines as reasons they should not be approved.
“Nothing that puts risks in our communities, damages our land, steals our land without our permission, is not a public convenience or necessity,” said Jess Mazour, the conservation program coordinator for the Sierra Club Iowa chapter. “So at the end of the day, they did not meet the burden of proof.”
Summit officials argued during the hearing the project would stimulate Iowa’s economy by creating larger markets for ethanol producers in the state, and it would have an environmental benefit by sequestering millions of tons of CO2 a year.
Blank pointed to the fact that 75% of the landowners on Summit’s proposed route have signed voluntary easements with the company, saying the agricultural community largely agrees they would bring value to Iowa’s corn farmers and ethanol producers.
“We’re an agricultural company building an infrastructure project to help the next generation of agriculture,” he said. “Opening new markets for this ethanol industry where they can drive higher values for the products, those economics will filter to the farm gate.”

The board has given the several parties involved in the hearing until Dec. 29 to submit briefs of their final arguments, and until Jan. 19 to submit reply briefs. The Iowa Utilities board can grant the permit, grant it with modifications or deny the permit, board spokesperson Don Tormey said.
“The IUB is satisfied that landowners and parties had a full and fair opportunity to present their testimony and evidence,” Tormey said in an email. “Over the hearing’s eight weeks, the IUB heard from dozens of scheduled witnesses and more than 100 landowners who chose to testify.”
There is no deadline for the board to make its decision, but Blank said he estimates it will be sometime in early 2024.
If the permit is approved, Blank said the company will wait until it has its approvals in South Dakota and North Dakota before starting construction in Iowa. That process could take more than a year to conclude, Blank said.
The Iowa Utilities Board’s decision won’t likely be the end of the road for the pipeline proposal. If the permit is approved, opponents like the Sierra Club are likely to appeal the decision, Mazour said.
“There are multiple parties running those ideas through their head, exactly what that would look like,” she said. “I feel very strongly that no matter what the IUB does, it’s going to be appealed either by us or by Summit.”
For Summit’s part, Blank said if the permit is denied the company would likely present a new proposal to the board.
“We would just take the next logical steps to put a permit application back in front of the IUB and really start the process over again,” he said.
Last month, Navigator CO2 Ventures dropped its plan to build the Navigator Heartland Greenway, a proposed pipeline system that would have spanned 1,300 miles across Iowa, South Dakota, Nebraska, Minnesota and Illinois.
In ending the plans for the project, the company cited the “unpredictable nature of the regulatory and government process,” noting South Dakota and Iowa particularly. South Dakota regulators denied Navigator’s permit in September.
“As good stewards of capital and responsible managers of people, we have made the difficult decision to cancel the Heartland Greenway project,” Navigator CO2 CEO Matt Vining said in a statement in October. “We are disappointed that we will not be able to provide services to our customers and thank them for their continued support.”
Mazour said the decision signaled the company realized it would be an uphill battle to get the project approved and built.
“I also don’t think we’re out of the weeds yet,” she said. “There’s all these ethanol plants that were on Navigator’s route that are up for grabs. Navigator could come back in a different fashion with a different name.”
Breaking into the industry as a new company is difficult, Blank said, and he is skeptical another company will come along to serve the ethanol plants along Navigator’s route. Summit’s pipeline, though, would have the capacity to add on other ethanol plants and carbon emitters along its route, including the plants that would have been connected to Navigator’s pipeline, Blank said.
“There’s a fair amount of ethanol companies that are not on our particular system today, but I think over time, will be,” he said. “And I think that’s probably the logical path for how the ethanol industry sequesters their carbon, it will be through Summit.”
A map supplied by Wolf Carbon Solutions and ADM of the possible path of the companies’ proposed carbon pipeline in Iowa and Illinois.
Wolf Carbon Solutions has the shortest proposed pipeline, a 300-mile project that will run through five Iowa counties and sequester carbon from ethanol plants at a sequestration site in Illinois.
Unlike the proposals from Summit and Navigator, Wolf has said it does not plan to use eminent domain for its project.
While the project is still under consideration by the Iowa Utilities Board, the company pulled its application to Illinois regulators and said it intends to refile the application in early 2024.
A staff member for the Illinois Commerce Commission recommended this month that the application be denied, citing issues over public safety, the lack of a final agreement over who would supply the carbon and where it would be stored, and other concerns.
“We have made the decision to withdraw our current application, with the intent to refile in early 2024, to address the questions and concerns raised by ICC staff in their recommendation,” Wolf Carbon Solutions U.S. President Dean Ferguson said in a written statement. “This voluntary action does not impact our commitment to the project and its stakeholders, or the ongoing regulatory processes, including with the Iowa Utilities Board (IUB) and Army Corps of Engineers.”
The southeast path is the preferred trunkline route. The northeast path is the preferred lateral route. 
Attendees look over a map of the proposed Wolf Carbon Solutions pipeline, Wednesday, Aug. 31, 2022, at the Adler Theater in Davenport. The proposed carbon dioxide pipeline that would connect ADM plants in Cedar Rapids and Clinton to an underground storage site in central Illinois slated to go through Clinton and Scott counties.
David Schmunk, president of Wolf Carbon Solutions, speaks during a public information meeting on a proposed Wolf Carbon Solutions pipeline, Wednesday, Aug. 31, 2022, at the Adler Theater in Davenport. The proposed carbon dioxide pipeline that would connect ADM plants in Cedar Rapids and Clinton to an underground storage site in central Illinois slated to go through Clinton and Scott counties.
Nick Noppinger, senior vice president of corporate development at Wolf Carbon Solutions, speaks during a public information meeting on a proposed Wolf Carbon Solutions pipeline, Wednesday, Aug. 31, 2022, at the Adler Theater in Davenport. The proposed carbon dioxide pipeline that would connect ADM plants in Cedar Rapids and Clinton to an underground storage site in central Illinois slated to go through Clinton and Scott counties.
Jeff Cook, an attorney with the Iowa Office of Consumer Advocate, speaks during a public information meeting on a proposed Wolf Carbon Solutions pipeline Wednesday at the Adler Theater in Davenport. 
Geri Huser, Iowa Utilities Board Chair, speaks during a public information meeting on a proposed Wolf Carbon Solutions pipeline, Wednesday, Aug. 31, 2022, at the Adler Theater in Davenport. The proposed carbon dioxide pipeline that would connect ADM plants in Cedar Rapids and Clinton to an underground storage site in central Illinois slated to go through Clinton and Scott counties.
David Schmunk, president of Wolf Carbon Solutions, speaks during a public information meeting on a proposed Wolf Carbon Solutions pipeline, Wednesday, Aug. 31, 2022, at the Adler Theater in Davenport. The proposed carbon dioxide pipeline that would connect ADM plants in Cedar Rapids and Clinton to an underground storage site in central Illinois slated to go through Clinton and Scott counties.
Nick Noppinger, senior vice president of corporate development at Wolf Carbon Solutions, speaks during a public information meeting on a proposed Wolf Carbon Solutions pipeline, Wednesday, Aug. 31, 2022, at the Adler Theater in Davenport. The proposed carbon dioxide pipeline that would connect ADM plants in Cedar Rapids and Clinton to an underground storage site in central Illinois slated to go through Clinton and Scott counties.
Scott County Supervisor Ken Croken asks a question during a public information meeting on a proposed Wolf Carbon Solutions pipeline Wednesday at the Adler Theater in Davenport. The proposed carbon dioxide pipeline that would connect ADM plants in Cedar Rapids and Clinton to an underground storage site in central Illinois slated to go through Clinton and Scott counties.
Gail Beech, an attorney with Iowa Utilities Board , speaks during a public information meeting on a proposed Wolf Carbon Solutions pipeline, Wednesday, Aug. 31, 2022, at the Adler Theater in Davenport. The proposed carbon dioxide pipeline that would connect ADM plants in Cedar Rapids and Clinton to an underground storage site in central Illinois slated to go through Clinton and Scott counties.
Inside the Adler Theater during a public information meeting on a proposed Wolf Carbon Solutions pipeline, Wednesday, Aug. 31, 2022, in Davenport. The proposed carbon dioxide pipeline that would connect ADM plants in Cedar Rapids and Clinton to an underground storage site in central Illinois slated to go through Clinton and Scott counties.
Gail Beech, an attorney with Iowa Utilities Board , speaks during a public information meeting on a proposed Wolf Carbon Solutions pipeline, Wednesday, Aug. 31, 2022, at the Adler Theater in Davenport. The proposed carbon dioxide pipeline that would connect ADM plants in Cedar Rapids and Clinton to an underground storage site in central Illinois slated to go through Clinton and Scott counties.
Geri Huser, Iowa Utilities Board Chair, speaks during a public information meeting on a proposed Wolf Carbon Solutions pipeline, Wednesday, Aug. 31, 2022, at the Adler Theater in Davenport. The proposed carbon dioxide pipeline that would connect ADM plants in Cedar Rapids and Clinton to an underground storage site in central Illinois slated to go through Clinton and Scott counties.
David Schmunk, president of Wolf Carbon Solutions, speaks during a public information meeting on a proposed Wolf Carbon Solutions pipeline, Wednesday, Aug. 31, 2022, at the Adler Theater in Davenport. The proposed carbon dioxide pipeline that would connect ADM plants in Cedar Rapids and Clinton to an underground storage site in central Illinois slated to go through Clinton and Scott counties.
David Schmunk, president of Wolf Carbon Solutions, speaks during a public information meeting on a proposed Wolf Carbon Solutions pipeline, Wednesday, Aug. 31, 2022, at the Adler Theater in Davenport. The proposed carbon dioxide pipeline that would connect ADM plants in Cedar Rapids and Clinton to an underground storage site in central Illinois slated to go through Clinton and Scott counties.
David Schmunk, president of Wolf Carbon Solutions, speaks during a public information meeting on a proposed Wolf Carbon Solutions pipeline, Wednesday, Aug. 31, 2022, at the Adler Theater in Davenport. The proposed carbon dioxide pipeline that would connect ADM plants in Cedar Rapids and Clinton to an underground storage site in central Illinois slated to go through Clinton and Scott counties.
Jeff Cook, an attorney with the Iowa Office of Consumer Advocate, speaks during a public information meeting on a proposed Wolf Carbon Solutions pipeline, Wednesday, Aug. 31, 2022, at the Adler Theater in Davenport. The proposed carbon dioxide pipeline that would connect ADM plants in Cedar Rapids and Clinton to an underground storage site in central Illinois slated to go through Clinton and Scott counties.
Nick Noppinger, senior vice president of corporate development at Wolf Carbon Solutions, speaks during a public information meeting on a proposed Wolf Carbon Solutions pipeline, Wednesday at the Adler Theater in Davenport. The proposed carbon dioxide pipeline that would connect ADM plants in Cedar Rapids and Clinton to an underground storage site in central Illinois slated to go through Clinton and Scott counties.
A map of the preliminary pipeline route is displayed during a public information meeting on a proposed Wolf Carbon Solutions pipeline, Wednesday, Aug. 31, 2022, at the Adler Theater in Davenport. The proposed carbon dioxide pipeline that would connect ADM plants in Cedar Rapids and Clinton to an underground storage site in central Illinois slated to go through Clinton and Scott counties.
David Schmunk, president of Wolf Carbon Solutions, speaks during a public information meeting on a proposed Wolf Carbon Solutions pipeline, Wednesday, Aug. 31, 2022, at the Adler Theater in Davenport. The proposed carbon dioxide pipeline that would connect ADM plants in Cedar Rapids and Clinton to an underground storage site in central Illinois slated to go through Clinton and Scott counties.
Geri Huser, Iowa Utilities Board Chair, speaks during a public information meeting on a proposed Wolf Carbon Solutions pipeline, Wednesday, Aug. 31, 2022, at the Adler Theater in Davenport. The proposed carbon dioxide pipeline that would connect ADM plants in Cedar Rapids and Clinton to an underground storage site in central Illinois slated to go through Clinton and Scott counties.

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Verle Tate (left), a Wright County landowner, testified Aug. 29, 2023 at the Summit Carbon Solutions evidentiary hearing. (Screenshot from IUB livestream)
Jerry and Susan Stoefen stand on their property next to a sign opposing CO2 pipelines in this Dec. 3, 2022, file photo. The couple received notice from Wolf Carbon Solutions that its pipeline could go through their land.
Summit Carbon Solutions intends to build more than 2,000 miles of carbon dioxide pipeline. (Courtesy of Summit Carbon Solutions)
A map supplied by Wolf Carbon Solutions and ADM of the possible path of the companies’ proposed carbon pipeline in Iowa and Illinois.
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