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Summit Carbon Solutions files response to Minnesota pipeline questions

Iowa-based Summit Carbon Solutions says its $4.5 billion pipeline project will help ethanol plants. The project aims to capture greenhouse gas emissions and pipe the CO2 to western North Dakota for underground storage.

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Summit Carbon Solutions has some answers for questions about its permit application for a carbon capture pipeline in two Minnesota counties.

As part of the Minnesota Public Utilities Commission docket, Summit on Nov. 14 added information on emergency response plans and argued that an environmental assessment worksheet is not needed.

The Minnesota environmental group CURE — Clean Up the River Environment — has petitioned the PUC to require an environmental assessment worksheet, which could lead to a more in-depth environmental impact statement.

Summit also said the portion of the pipeline in Otter Tail and Wilkin counties should be considered separately from the rest of project that is planned in Minnesota, noting that the southern portion that will connect to the main line in Iowa is more than 100 miles away from the northern portion that will connect to the main line in North Dakota.

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The Summit Carbon Solutions pipeline would connect six ethanol plants in Minnesota to a carbon storage site in North Dakota.
Summit Carbon Solutions

"Summit Carbon has not divided the larger network into smaller segments in an attempt to avoid environmental review," the response says.

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It goes on to say it does not know when it will file for a permit for the southern Minnesota counties: Chippewa, Cottonwood, Jackson, Kandiyohi, Martin, Redwood, Renville and Yellow Medicine.

"The timing of filing of a route permit application and construction of the remaining portions of the Midwest Carbon Express Project will be dependent on land acquisition and other project development-related tasks," the letter says.

Some of the responses are the questions from the Minnesota Department's Energy Environmental Review and Analysis, but also from CURE and other commenters on the controversial pipeline project.

The PUC has indicated it will likely hold a public meeting in late 2022 or very early in 2023 to decide whether the Summit application should be accepted as complete and what to do with the petitions for an EAW.

Summit describes the Midwest Carbon Express as a $4.5 billion project to benefit 32 ethanol plants in five states. The project will capture greenhouse gas emissions from those plants and pipe liquid carbon dioxide to western North Dakota for underground storage. The ethanol plants will benefit by being able to sell their corn-based fuel for a premium in some markets, while Summit will get a share of those profits and take advantage of tax credits for carbon storage.

Summit also has announced that it has secured easement agreements for more than 50% of the proposed pipeline route in South Dakota.

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Lee Blank, CEO of Summit Carbon Solutions
Courtesy / Summit Carbon Solutions

“Securing easement agreements for a majority of the proposed pipeline route in South Dakota represents a significant step in advancing our project and driving growth in our ag economy long-term,” Summit Carbon Solutions CEO Lee Blank said in a news release.

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

Summit has said it is seeking all voluntary easements but could win the right to use eminent domain on some of the route, forcing landowners to provide right-of-way.

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The pipeline has met resistance from many landowners with concerns about damage to farmland, safety and property values.

One public comment from Nicole Zempel of Granite Falls, Minnesota, says, in part: "I view it as nothing more than a government subsidy grab by wealthy investors and the industrial ag machine."

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