Summit Carbon Solutions pipeline hearings in Iowa still months away
Summit says proceedings could start in March; other parties ask for more time. The pipeline route includes North Dakota, southeast South Dakota, and soutwest and western Minnesota.
DES MOINES, Iowa — The earliest the Iowa Utilities Board will begin hearings in a controversial carbon capture would be March 20, but several parties told the board that even that would be moving too quickly.
The Iowa Utilities Board met Tuesday, Dec. 13, to discuss a timeline for the Summit Carbon Solutions project, which proposes to capture carbon dioxide emissions from 32 ethanol plants in five states and pipe it to western North Dakota for underground storage. The 2,000-mile pipeline would connect ethanol plants in Minnesota, Iowa, Nebraska, South Dakota and North Dakota.
Summit has said it wants to begin construction on the $4.5 billion pipeline system in 2023 and be operational in 2024, but there is still significant work to be done on permitting.
During Tuesday’s meeting, Summit said IUB hearings could begin March 20, 2023, and would need about 15 days to complete the hearings.
Other intervening parties said that is unrealistic. Christina Gruenhagen, representing the Iowa Farm Bureau, said July or later would be reasonable, in part to avoid spring planting and harvest. Brian Jorde with the Domina Law Firm that represents landowners said a hearing should be a year away with 30 days set aside for proceedings.
The three-member Iowa Utilities Board did not set a schedule Tuesday, saying they would discuss the situation with staff before setting a schedule for the proceedings, which have been likened to a trial, with time needed for evidence discovery and scheduling expert witnesses.
Anna Ryon, an attorney with the Iowa Office of Consumer Advocate, said the board should wait until the federal Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration finishes a review of carbon pipeline safety standards. She also noted possible action on carbon pipelines by the Iowa Legislature, which comes back into session Jan. 9.
Bret Dublinske, attorney for Summit, questioned whether pipeline opponents may be stalling.
"You start to wonder how much of this is tactical as opposed to legitimately needed," he said.
Carbon pipelines have been a hot topic in Iowa, with Summit’s Midwest Carbon Express the furthest along of three planned projects in the state.
Summit Carbon Solutions is a spinoff of Iowa-based Summit Agriculture Group. Summit says the project will benefit the ethanol industry, farmers, the economy and the environment. But environmentalists and some landowners have been vocal in their opposition, especially the use of eminent domain to force landowners to provide a path for the pipeline.
Summit also is awaiting permit approvals in the other states on the route, Minnesota, Nebraska, North Dakota and South Dakota.