South Dakota PUC wraps up permit hearings on Navigator CO2 pipeline

August 9, 2023

Joshua Haiar

FORT PIERRE, S.D.–Two of South Dakota’s s publicly elected utility regulators expressed concerns about a proposed carbon dioxide pipeline Tuesday during the 10th and final day of a permit hearing in Pierre.

The Public Utilities Commission is required to make a decision within 12 months of receiving a permit application, which means a decision is due by Sept. 26.

Commissioner Kristie Fiegen questioned a representative of Navigator CO2, the company proposing the pipeline, on Tuesday about its failures to provide timely notices to some affected landowners and its decision to withhold some findings from modeling about the impacts of a pipeline rupture or leak.

“I can’t get that out of my mind,” Fiegen said of the company’s choice to keep some studies private from counties and emergency responders.

Commissioner Chris Nelson said he wasn’t sure how the commission would come down on the issue of the safety information, but if commissioners decide the withheld study findings should be disclosed, it would be an “impasse.”

The other commissioner, Gary Hanson, was absent Tuesday while he represented the commission at a utility regulators forum.

The planned $3 billion, 1,300-mile, five-state Heartland Greenway pipeline would capture carbon dioxide emissions from 21 ethanol and several fertilizer plants, converting the gas into a liquid for transport. The carbon could then be deposited underground in Illinois or sold for industrial and commercial applications, including oil extraction or dry ice production.

The project could qualify for $1.3 billion annually in federal tax credits for atmospheric carbon reduction, to help fight climate change. It would stretch across 112 miles in five South Dakota counties: Brookings, Moody, Minnehaha, Lincoln and Turner. South Dakota is the initial state to conduct hearings for the project.

So far, the company has secured easements from 30% of impacted landowners, offering an average of $24,000 per acre, company officials have said. Navigator has not yet exercised eminent domain, which is a legal process for gaining access to land when an agreement can’t be reached with a landowner.

The hearing on Navigator’s permit application started July 25.

“This has been professional, respectful, but very strategic,” Fiegen said as the hearing came to a close. “I think we all increased our knowledge on carbon pipelines, and I want to say thank you.”

The other carbon pipeline proposed in South Dakota, by Summit Carbon Solutions, which has already begun using eminent domain, is scheduled to have its permit hearing Sept. 11-22. Last week, North Dakota regulators rejected a permit for Summit in that state, and the company indicated it will file a revised application.