Iowa Utilities Board hears testimony on concerns, risks of carbon pipeline

The Iowa Utilities Board is hosting a hearing regarding the proposed project that would build a carbon pipeline across the state.
Published: Sep. 14, 2023 at 10:17 PM CDT
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DES MOINES, Iowa (WOWT) - Developer Summit Carbon Solutions is fighting to build a carbon capture pipeline.

The 687-mile pipe would run through five states, including Iowa, delivering liquid carbon dioxide from ethanol plants to underground storage locations in North Dakota and Illinois.

The company says the pipeline would be critical to agriculture and bring in hundreds of thousands of dollars in property taxes each year.

However, there are concerns the pipeline could pose a danger to people, wildlife, and historical places.

On Tuesday, Summit brought witnesses to testify in front of the Iowa Utilities Board (IUB) trying to calm those fears. Among them was EXP Energy Services, which conducted environmental surveys along the pipeline’s proposed route.

“We had tribal interests that participated in our surveys,” EXP’s environmental and regulatory Vice President Dr. Jon Schmidt said. “They identified sites important to them. We avoided all of those.”

The board also heard about the major peril this pipeline could cause if something goes wrong.

In 2020, a CO2 pipeline owned by Denbury Inc. ruptured around a mile from the town of Satartia, Mississippi.

Yazoo County Emergency Management Director Jack Willingham’s department responded to the incident. He testified Thursday, saying they found people short of breath, disoriented, and some on the brink of death.

“They were going to die,” Willingham said. “Their respirations had dropped down to nothing if it wasn’t for my responders throwing them all on a UTV and getting them out of that area.”

Willingham said it wasn’t safe for people to return to their homes even 14 hours after the pipe burst.

“The highest concentrations of CO2 found at that time were inside the residences,” he said. “If they had been sheltering in place, they still would’ve been at dangerous levels above what is supposed to be accepted.”

He was asked about an experimental information system called Buxus, which is currently being tested on a couple of pipelines in his area.

It wouldn’t prevent a pipeline rupture, but it should alert first responders to serious incidents as they’re happening.

“Supposedly, when it’s complete, I’ll be able to see everything that they can see,” Willingham said. “Again, it’s all in the beta process now.”

Testimony in the weeks-long hearing continues Tuesday, as the IUB decides whether to grant Summit a permit to build the hazardous liquid pipeline in Iowa.

Summit is also asking the board for the right of eminent domain over around 950 parcels of land for the pipeline’s route.

Meanwhile, state utility boards in North Dakota and South Dakota recently denied Summit’s permit applications.

Summit has already submitted a petition to reconsider in North Dakota.