PIERRE — A lawyer for Brown County Monday asked a federal judge to dismiss a lawsuit filed by Summit Carbon Solutions over the county’s decision to regulate hazardous material pipelines.
“(Summit) can do the surveying and still negotiate easements,” argued Josh Finer, an Aberdeen attorney, during a motions hearing. “They can’t begin construction anyway until they get permission from the state.”
That would come from the South Dakota Public Utilities Commission, which plans to make a decision on Summit’s proposed carbon sequestration pipeline before Nov. 15.
Brown, McPherson Spink counties all sued by Summit
The Brown County Commission is the third county commission in South Dakota to put a moratorium on pipeline construction, joining both Spink and McPherson counties.
For now, the Brown County moratorium expires on July 19, though commissioners said they will revisit the matter at their July 18 meeting. Residents opposed to the pipeline project have spoken at past commission meetings requesting that the moratorium be extended.
Justin Bell, a lawyer representing Summit Carbon, suggested in part during the hearing that there are no reassurances that Brown County would not vote on another moratorium, ultimately nullifying the sunset clause.
“I’m not so sure it’s going to go away, we don’t know for sure,” Bell said.
Summit is one of two companies proposing to build pipelines that would capture carbon emissions from Midwestern ethanol facilities. The ethanol industry argues it needs to reduce its carbon footprint as more governments enact clean energy standards that target carbon emissions. Carbon is blamed for creating climate change.
Carbon pipeline proposals have sparked backlash
But the projects have sparked backlash among landowners who argue the companies shouldn’t have the right to use eminent domain. Beside property rights issues, others question the safety of carbon pipelines.
Federal Judge Roberto Lange declined to reject Brown County’s motion to dismiss, acknowledging the complexities of the approval process. Debates over pipeline regulations are being had by several other county commissions and in state court.
“This (case) is going to morph, and has morphed since we filed,” Finer said.
Lange said that he intends to offer a written decision soon.
Summit plans to build a 2,000-mile pipeline through the Dakotas, Minnesota, Iowa and Nebraska. It would carry carbon dioxide emissions from ethanol plants in those states that would be stored underground in western North Dakota. It has an estimated cost of $4.5 billion.
Navigator is a Nebraska-based company proposing a 1,300-mile pipeline through South Dakota, Nebraska, Iowa, Minnesota and Illinois. An estimated 15 million metric tons of carbon dioxide would be captured from ethanol plants and fertilizer facilities and sequestered in the ground in Illinois. It’s expected to cost $3.2 billion.
Scott Waltman of The Aberdeen Insider contributed to this report.