PIERRE – About 250 people descended on the state Capitol on Thursday, July 6 demanding a prohibition against carbon capture pipeline companies gaining access to property against a landowner’s will.
Lawmakers, landowners and concerned citizens from across the political spectrum asked that Republican Gov. Kristi Noem call a special legislative session to address the issue. She did not attend the rally.
“Governor Noem, you say you stand with us,” said rally speaker Ed Fischbach, a Spink County farmer whose land is near a proposed pipeline route. “We need your actions to speak louder than your words.”
Others from the Aberdeen area also visited Pierre Thursday in hopes of being heard.
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The rally comes amid a heated public debate over the expansion of carbon capture pipeline infrastructure.
Two carbon pipelines could enter Brown County
Two pipelines that would pass through eastern South Dakota and multiple other states are designed to transport captured carbon dioxide produced at ethanol and fertilizer plants to underground storage sites. The aim is to combat climate change by removing carbon from the atmosphere, where it traps heat. The projects are eligible for billions of dollars in federal tax credits, and could allow ethanol producers to sell their products in places with restrictive emissions standards.
Proposed pipelines by Summit Carbon Solutions and Navigator CO2 Ventures would both cut into Brown County to attach to ethanol plants.
However, critics argue that the use of a court process called “eminent domain” — which Summit is already pursuing to gain land access from dozens of unwilling landowners — is a violation of property rights.
“This is going to set precedents,” said Rep. Oren Lesmeister, D-Parade, in a speech to the crowd. “And if we don’t stop this now, what’s that going to mean for eminent domain for private gain in the future?”
Some attendees wore T-shirts that read “No eminent domain” and held signs asking “Gov. Noem, what if this was your land?” Some argued the use of eminent domain by carbon capture pipelines is improper because carbon pipelines do not deliver a product for the public as some other eminent domain projects do, such as crude oil pipelines, water pipelines and electrical power lines.
Collin Duprel, who ran unsuccessfully as a Libertarian for Congress last year, told the crowd that lawmakers who failed to show up for the rally will have a tough time getting reelected.
“There’s a lot of people who are missing,” Duprel said. “They don’t deserve to be in office anymore. We’re drawing a line in the sand, today.”
‘Our land and property rights are under attack’
Chairman of the South Dakota Freedom Caucus, state Rep. Aaron Aylward, R-Harrisburg, said in a news release he is committed to fighting for legislative action.
“Governor Noem: Our land and property rights are under attack, and the time for action is now,” Aylward said in the release. “By declaring a man-made emergency and convening a special legislative session, you can put an end to this assault on citizens’ rights.”
The governor can declare a special session, but so can two-thirds of the Legislature.
At the end of the rally, affected landowner Jared Bossly from Brown County and state Rep. Karla Lems, R-Canton, delivered to the governor’s office about 2,000 petition signatures calling for a special session.
Noem has not addressed protesters’ calls for her to declare a special session, but tweeted last week, “If the Legislature wants to call themselves into special session to change the law, I look forward to reviewing what they send to my desk.”
There was a bill to prohibit eminent domain for carbon pipelines during the legislative session earlier this year. It passed the House, but failed in a Senate committee.
House Majority Leader Will Mortenson, R-Pierre, did not attend the rally. He said in a statement that while he “led the charge for farmers and ranchers during this year’s session,” unless “we get agreement with the Senate on some proposals, we shouldn’t call a special session and neither should the governor. It would be a waste of taxpayer dollars and legislator time.
“For my part, I’ll be spending the next couple months working with senators to gather consensus on protecting landowners. I hope we get the job done,” Mortenson said in his statement.
Summit has 70% of easements needed for pipeline in South Dakota
Summit Carbon Solutions and its proponents have defended the use of eminent domain as a necessary step for ensuring the future of corn-based ethanol. They point out that the company has already negotiated easements with about 70% of affected landowners in the state.
Summit did not reply to a request for comment on the calls for a special session. Both Summit and Navigator have permit hearings scheduled later this summer with the South Dakota Public Utilities Commission.
Summit’s is up first, set to begin Sept. 15 in Pierre.
Plans call for Summit’s line to run through the Dakotas, Minnesota, Iowa and Nebraska and sequester the carbon collected underground in western North Dakota. The 2,000-mile line has an estimated cost of $4.5 billion.
Navigator’s plan is newer. It wants to build a 1,350-mile pipeline through South Dakota, Iowa, Nebraska, Minnesota and Illinois to store carbon underground in Illinois.
Watertown-based Glacial Lakes Energy, which has ethanol plants in Aberdeen and Mina, is partnering with Summit. Sioux Falls-based POET, which has an ethanol plant just west of Groton, hopes to tie into the Navigator line.
Nearly a year ago, the Brown County Commission approved a pipeline moratorium to give the county time to reassess its hazardous material pipeline regulations. That resulted in increasing the setbacks for such lines to 1,500 feet.
The moratorium is set to expire July 19, but commissioners have said they will again discuss it at their July 18 meeting in Aberdeen.
Through the months, tensions between Summit and local landowners have grown with claims and counterclaims and lawsuits and countersuits. Brown County landowners want the commission to keep the moratorium in place indefinitely.
Scott Waltman of The Aberdeen Insider contributed to this report.