Landowners meet in Redfield to discuss CO2 Pipeline


 Landowners meet in Redfield to discuss CO2 Pipeline

By Shiloh Appel
 On the frigid winter evening of Wednesday, February 2nd, at 5:30p.m., landowners from 12 counties were invited to the Spink County 4-H building in Redfield to discuss the Summit Carbon Solutions carbon dioxide (CO2) pipeline. Not all 12 counties invited were represented at the meeting, but approximately 80 landowners were in attendance.
 The proposed Summit Carbon Solutions pipeline would consist of 2,000 miles of pipeline across Nebraska, Iowa, Minnesota, South Dakota and North Dakota. It would transfer CO2 in liquid form from 31 ethanol plants, seven of them in South Dakota (including Redfield Energy), to be sequestered more than a mile underground in North Dakota. In the February 2nd landowner meeting in Redfield, local farmers and ranchers discussed their concerns with the project. They also showed a video of the CO2 pipeline rupture that occurred in Satartia, Mississippi in February of 2020, causing 49 hospitalizations.
 “We have a lot of concerns on this project. We worry about the safety. With the video that we have shown, there are a lot of things that could potentially happen.We are a little tired. Seems like a lot of our rights are going to be taken away. They just want us to sit out here and pay taxes on it. We have a lot of concern for the future. What are our kids going to have left? What are our grandkids going to have left?” Said a local landowner at the meeting.
 “I’m not necessarily against the pipeline, I just didn’t think it was fair that we’d get a one-time payment. The bigger concern I have is why do we get a one-time payment when somebody else is going to profit off of my ground,” said Jenifer Runge of Ree Heights. “One-time payment. Unless you want to consider it a three-time payment, because 80 percent the second year for crop loss and damage, then 60 percent and after that ..they are exempt. That concerns me. I don’t think it is fair that they can profit off of me.”
 Those who organized the landowners meeting and began the discussion included Ryan Spilde of Highmore; Ed Fischbach of Mellette; Jay Poindexter of Ree Heights; Jenifer Runge of Ree Heights; and Mark Lapka of Leola.
  “I am opposed to it for a couple three reasons. Number one, I don’t think a for-profit company should be able to use eminent domain to take our land,” said Ed Fischbach. “I am also opposed to it because of the safety concern I have on the line. You saw the video in the back of the room there. We’ve had an incident like that happen in Mississippi where several people were poisoned and rendered unconscious. Thankfully, they survived. But that is a real issue. Within a few minutes, if that bursts, and your livestock or pets inhale that, you could lose everything. I am also concerned about the lack of transparency that the company has exhibited. To this point, they have refused to give a list of the land owners that are affected, so we can’t talk to one another or try to organize or visit with one another…I know Mark and Bruce and I have been in the media a little bit lately and because of that we’ve had more and more people call and contact us and say, ‘hey, we’re affected too, and we don’t want this.’ So we are trying to organize. I want to stress that this is nothing against the ethanol industry. All of us farmers …many of us buy by-product and feed our cattle. This is not an attack on that.
The other reason that I don’t think it is appropriate for me as a taxpayer that I should have to subsidize carbon tax credit, either, at the same time I sacrifice my land. If it wasn’t for the subsidy, I don’t think we’d be here today.”
“There has been a lack of transparency in my opinion. This project has moved very fast and nobody seems to know anything about it,” said Ryan Spilde. “They are trying to get easements through and the public doesn’t know much about it, either. I farm north of Highmore with my brother and my dad and it is just like they are trying to pull the wool over our eyes and get it through before anybody knows what is going on. Nobody really knows anything about this yet. Those are some of my concerns.”
 “I guess before we get going on any questions. Everybody is wondering, ‘why are they doing this?’ The main reason that Summit Carbon Solutions is developing this pipeline is for two reasons,” said Mark Lapka. “Well, it’s for one reason. It is for money. And there are good ways they are going to capture that. For every ton of CO2 that they sequester with this pipe, they are going to be able to pull off a 50 dollar a ton tax credit. Previously to yesterday they were talking about a 12 million ton capacity on the pipeline. Then they upped that to 15 million. Well 15 million ton times 15million dollars is 750 million dollars in tax credits. A 4.5 billion dollar project that they will be able to pay for in a little over four years just with our taxpayer money. When was the last time that you bought a piece of ground that you could pay for in four years without your own money? This isn’t fair.”
 “Well, I finally got ahold of Summit Carbon Solutions. A guy by the name of Chris Hill. He did call me back. I asked him to get ahold of Lana [Greenfield] and visit with her about their company. That call has never been made,” said a local landowner. “I asked him what they are sequestering this [CO2] for. I said to this Chris, I said,’what about the power plant over at Big Stone? Is that included?’ Because they produce a lot of carbon. He said no, it’s not. It is only the ethanol plants. I know it is going to be a big fight with the farmers that haul grain, with the ethanol plants, with these guys going across your land. It is going to be very hard. You want to keep the ethanol plant because that is dollars coming into Redfield. You don’t want to close down [but they are going to allow] the pipeline to come in to take the carbon.
It is something that each and every one of you is going to have to decide on.
Somebody has got to step up. And I’m not the guy to step up, either. I just wanted to give you a little bit of information. Because after visiting with this Chris, I was really behind this pipeline. I thought that is a great idea. Get this stuff down in the ground. I asked him if it would ever be used for oil extraction. He said ‘no, once it is down in the ground, it is going to stay there.’ I don’t know if you can believe that, personally. You start looking, there is a pipeline that has been in existence out in Wyoming. They were pumping this stuff up into Canada. You know what Canada was using it for? Pumping it down into the oil wells to force up 60% more oil. 141 million barrels of oil could be recovered when they put CO2 down the pipe. If they put water down, it only pushes up 20% of the oil. CO2 pushes up 60 to 80 percent of the oil they can’t get.”
 As the discussion continued, one meeting attendee asked if the pipeline would go through any high-population areas. Jay Poindexter and Ed Fischbach responded to the question.
“From what I understand, there is no maps that I have been able to find for this particular pipeline in South Dakota on the internet. I’ve looked and looked and looked. From what I understand, correct me if I’m wrong, Ed. It is going to go from the plant out here east to the main pipeline. It is going to go up through your land,” said Poindexter.
“Correct. One of the reasons you don’t see that is because we don’t even have a definite route yet. I’ve been hearing from neighbors that are getting calls now that they might even adjust the route. I just got a call from a landowner down in Tea last night. Most of those people are on the Dakota Access oil line and that is supposed to run on the same easement this was. Now they are being told they are moving that and readjusting that. So now they don’t even know where the route really is,” said Fischbach.
 “When they do give an easement…I don’t know about South Dakota, but I have a friend that has a big ranch out in Montana and he has a pipeline years ago that went through his land. On that easement, because they didn’t read the fine print, they now have three pipelines where they only had one. It’s once you sign that easement,” said Poindexter. “I did ask if they were going to pay anything like a subsidy every year. They said, ‘no, it is a one-time deal.’ When they buy that land from you..if they ever have to go out there and have a leak they will come and pay you for your crop damage, but you are never going to get more than that one check.”
 “I want to take a couple minutes and explore how this all started and see if your experience was like mine was. Most of us hadn’t heard a thing. I don’t know if any of us had heard a word on this project until my letter came at the end of July of last year. Just out of the clear blue it showed up in the mail. My wife and I were driving over to my niece’s wedding in Minnesota and picked up the mail and she opened it up and said you better look at this,” said Fischbach. “Well, I didn’t want to run off the road, so I had her read it to me. When I got back home that weekend I found out these letters had gone all over to some of my neighbors and other relatives and in about three days there were surveyors showing up already. In my area they were not getting a very good reception, and they still aren’t. We have been battling them all summer and all last fall. I’ve got a cousin here tonight who has land right next to my home quarter and they were even trespassing several times after being told ‘no’ and he actually turned them in to the Spink County Sheriff on trespassing charges and I actually had another neighbor do the same thing.
So we had that experience all fall with surveyors. They just wouldn’t take ‘no’ for an answer. In fact, just last week, we had some back again on the Spink County line. Now they are getting ‘cute.’ They set up their tripods in the road ditches and they take pictures of the land that way.
So that was the experience with the surveyors. Then they had their first public meeting on October 26th at noon and then, on the same day, they had one in Redfield. I went to both of those.
I didn’t know who was going to show up. I didn’t know who all was affected. Mark [Lapka] was there. That was the first time I met him.
It must have been about 80-90 people there. Pretty full. Nobody. Not one. Was for the project. Everybody that spoke was against it. So that opened my eyes and that is when we started communicating with one another. I talked to landowners in Madison and Tea.
After that first meeting in Aberdeen and Redfield that first day…that night here in Redfield another neighbor of mine talked to one of the company reps that let it slip to him that they were meeting with the PUC staff in Pierre at 8a.m. on October 27th the next morning. So I called the PUC staff in Pierre at about 9:20a.m. and got a senior staff member and I asked him…’are you meeting with Summit?’ He said ‘no, there is no meeting with Summit. There is nothing.’ I said, ‘Nothing at all?’ He said, ‘Absolutely not.’ So I called my neighbor back and I said, ‘Well they just told me there was no meeting.’ So he called the company back that told him they were, and they said, ‘Absolutely, we had the meeting. It was at 8a.m.’
So keep in mind, the meeting had taken place already when I called the senior staff member at the PUC who told me there hadn’t been one. So I waited and gave him time to eat his lunch and called back about 1:20p.m. I said, ‘I just got it confirmed by the company that you did have a meeting. Why did you do that? ‘I thought that was pretty improper. It got real quiet on the other end and at first he tried to tell me that he was confused by my question. I said ‘no, I made it very clear what was happening.’ I flat out said, ‘Why did you lie to me?’ I said if that is the case now that you have had one, and we know, would you be willing to meet with some landowners and give us the same courtesy? The answer was, ‘no, you can have your chance when the permitting process comes.’ That is another example of the lack of transparency.”
  County commissioner, Dave Albright, also spoke during the meeting.
 “Spink County has invited Summit to come to a county commission meeting. So far they haven’t responded, but the offer is there. If need be, we will go to a bigger venue other than our little commissioner room in the court house. But, anyway, we want to hear both sides. Just like Ed mentioned the PUC wanted to hear both sides of this issue. So do County Commissioners. We don’t know everything there is to this. Is a petroleum pipeline the same as a carbon pipeline? I don’t know, I’ll be honest,” said Albright. “The same thing with the deep hole boring project. We didn’t know enough about what they were talking about. But you have to go through the process of educating yourself. That is what it is all about. There is a lot of things that need to be considered. I know other counties have put a moratorium on new pipelines just so they can educate themselves. I think Spink County might have to look at that.”
 Mark Lapka also brought up that several affected landowners have signed up for a collective representation with attorney Brian Jorde from Nebraska.
“He is one of, if not the best, pipeline attorneys on behalf of landowners in the country. Not just the state of Nebraska,” said Lapka. “Liability is a very big concern to a landowner. Brian recommended that we go talk to our insurance agents on our farm or ranch insurance on our liability policy. Ninety-nine point nine of insurance agencies will not cover any liability insurance on the top of the season due to what they call a pollution exclusion. Because CO2 is considered a hazardous material, it is considered a pollutant. Therefore, you have no liability coverage. If you would do anything to the pipeline or something would happen, you would have no liability coverage.
The other problem, and this was from Brian. If a rupture would happen on your property, the first thing that would happen is it would be a pretty catastrophic event. If, God forbid, it is close to any people, you could deal with potential losses. The first thing that is going to happen is that all of the affected parties are going to sue the pipeline company. He says it is going to be a big number -$100 million dollars. He says just for a round number. The next thing that is going to happen is the pipeline company is going to send out their representatives and look for any activity over in the easement area. Obviously, since most of this is going to be in farmed fields, or hayfields, you are going to have heavy equipment going across that easement. With a fall like we had this last fall…where it was wet, combines have gotten bigger, the grain carts are so heavy, you go over the top of that and you are going to push into that soil, affecting that pipe. They are going to try to make the claim that compressing that pipe with that activity allows pressure to build up, causing the rupture. Hard line is, if you don’t have more than 100 million dollars, you are not going to come out of it.
Like an example he gave…if anybody remembers the Exxon oil spill in Alaska back in 1989, there is still currently ongoing litigation with that accident. Exxon has spent tens of millions of dollars fighting it, but to this day has yet to pay out one dollar due to liability.”

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