Carbon Pipeline Politics

HURON, S.D. (DTN) -- South Dakota farmers and others are ramping up for the next salvos in the battles over carbon pipelines in the 2024 legislatures and the polls.

A landowners' rights panel at the South Dakota Farmers Union annual meeting this week focused on counties that have developed local ordinances creating setbacks for carbon pipelines. Some of the local setback ordinances for carbon pipelines range from 1,500 feet from property lines to as much as a half-mile -- each of which effectively halted Summit Carbon Solutions' plans this past year.

"I encourage everybody without a hazardous pipeline ordinance to talk to your commissioners and talk to your planning and zoning commissioners," said Suzanne Smith, a county commissioner in Spink County. "Whether a pipeline is going through your county or not, you should have an ordinance for it."

Local ordinances led the South Dakota Public Utilities Commission to reject Summit's pipeline plans that would have crossed as many as 18 counties in the state.

Iowa-based Summit Carbon Solutions wants to build a 1,250-mile carbon pipeline, the Midwest Carbon Express CO2 Pipeline. The pipeline would take carbon dioxide from more than 30 ethanol plants and cross parts of Iowa, Minnesota, Nebraska, South Dakota and North Dakota to eventually sink into a geological formation in North Dakota's Bakken Formation.

Those plants, however, were set back by permit denials in separate decisions back in September by both officials in South Dakota and North Dakota.


While Summit has seen permit rejections in both South Dakota and North Dakota, the company is waiting for a decision from the Iowa Utilities Board on its permit request there.

Still, presidential candidate Vivek Ramaswamy this past week has injected carbon pipeline battles into the Republican primary debate. Ramaswamy has called out Republican leaders for supporting eminent domain for carbon pipelines. He held an event Friday in Des Moines where he called on carbon pipeline supporters to debate him.

"The climate-change agenda is a hoax, and it's hurting farmers in Iowa. Here's how: The U.S. government enacted crony subsidies to reward those who build CO2 pipelines across the Midwest to bury CO2 in the ground in North Dakota (which is senseless for many reasons, including the fact that crops require CO2)," Ramaswamy said in a statement this week.

The Iowa Renewable Fuels Association called Ramaswamy hypocritical because he has backed the Keystone XL petroleum pipeline from Canada, which relied on eminent domain to secure land access.

"Any politician who touts support for the Keystone XL pipeline while attacking carbon pipelines in Iowa on the basis of protecting property rights is nothing more than a hypocrite," said Iowa Renewable Fuels Association (IRFA) Executive Director Monte Shaw. "Iowans are tired of seeing politicians bow down to petroleum companies while finding excuses to hamstring the future of agriculture. Unfortunately, these are the typical games we've come to expect from politicians running on fumes."


A couple of lobbyists and agricultural influencers in the state on Thursday announced the formation of the South Dakota Ag Alliance. The news website South Dakota Searchlight reported on a news release that stated the new ag alliance will "mediate and advocate for reasonable solutions to difficult ag and rural development issues" such as carbon pipeline proposals. That includes advocating for policies to provide a better deal and greater peace of mind for affected landowners."

In October, South Dakota Farmers Union (SDFU) helped form South Dakotans First, a coalition opposed to carbon pipelines to support more local siting ordinances and change laws around the state's eminent domain process.

Doug Sombke, SDFU president, pushed back on the idea that opposing carbon pipelines would do lasting damage to ethanol plants. He said allowing nationwide 30% ethanol would reduce emissions more than the carbon that would be sequestered by Summit.

"The fact of the matter is ethanol is already a low-carbon fuel," Sombke said.

Brownfield Radio also reported the South Dakota Farm Bureau changed its carbon pipeline policy earlier in November to allow eminent domain for carbon pipelines if a pipeline has voluntary easements signed by two-thirds of the landowners along the pipeline route.


Sabrina Zenor, a spokeswoman for Summit, said in an email to DTN that the company has already signed landowners for roughly 75% of the pipeline across the five states involved.

"Summit Carbon Solutions continues to work in South Dakota with regulators, agricultural leaders, and is partnering with more landowners every day," Zenor stated in an email. "Prior to our September PUC (Public Utilities Commission) hearing, nearly 75% of the company's proposed pipeline route signed voluntary easement agreements. It's clear that support for our project is strong and growing every day. We look forward to continuing to work with those landowner partners, along with our ethanol plant partners, to drive growth in one of South Dakota's most important industries -- agriculture."


Last year, landowners pushed the South Dakota Legislature to reform property rights laws on eminent domain, but the bill stalled in the state Senate -- similar to the way a bill stalled in the Iowa Legislature last spring.

With the Navigator pipeline now canceled, landowner groups see a new chance in an election year to pick up more backing to strengthen eminent domain laws.

"This is a golden opportunity that can't be squandered," said Brian Jorde, an attorney for the Domina Law Group in Omaha. He said there's a stronger change in an election year to push "common-sense, eminent domain reform in the legislative session."

Jorde added, "We have the momentum at this point."

The federal Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA) has started to work on new rules for carbon pipelines, but nothing has been proposed yet. Jorde warned about efforts from companies to use the rulemaking process to limit local and state control over those pipelines.

"They are trying to do an end-run federally right now around all of us," he said. "We can't think the federal government's going to save us, they're just not."

Jorde and others said the major driver behind pipelines is not reducing emissions for the ethanol industry but capturing federal tax credits known as 45Q, which are now worth as much as $85 a ton.

"At the end of the day, they want to take land from you so they can make billions of dollars," Jorde said. "A private company should not be able to tell you that because they can make more money with your ground than you do, they should be able to take your land from you."

Also see "In Blow to Ethanol Plants, Navigator Ends Attempt to Build a Five-State Carbon Pipeline" here:….

Chris Clayton can be reached at

Follow him on X, formerly known as Twitter, @ChrisClaytonDTN.

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