Farmer, attorney promote carbon pipeline mitigation agreements
LAMBERTON — An Olivia farmer and a Twin Cities attorney talking at the American Legion Monday provided many of the nuts and bolts for more than 100 farmers on what is said to be the world’s largest carbon dioxide pipeline project.
A handful of speakers addressed easements, safety, crops, land and environmental concerns regarding the $4.5 billion Summit Carbon Solutions CO2 capture project that would connect biofuel plants in five states to North Dakota storage sites via underground pipelines.
The Minnesota pipeline route crosses Chippewa, Cottonwood, Jackson, Kandiyohi, Martin, Otter Tail, Redwood, Renville, Wilkin, and Yellow Medicine counties.
Olivia farmer Bob Ruebel said he learned about the subject decades ago when the Alliance pipeline system created a 2,391-mile natural gas pipeline system linking the U.S. and Canada that crossed Renville County.
“Be sure you know what you’re getting into and are protected,” said Ruebel. “Organize and have a mitigation agreement. Look closely at your property insurance. Look for a pollution exclusion (that excludes coverage for losses) caused by pollution, whether in solid, liquid or gaseous form.”
Ruebel talked about the Alliance pipeline and joining a group including Renville County farmers who collected dues to pay an attorney for legal help.
“It was the best investment I ever made,” Ruebel said.
“Only sign an easement with a mitigation agreement,” he added. “Easement non-disclosure? That’s hokey.”
“An easement is not confidential,” said Twin Cities attorney Michael Cashman. He added that economists can determine what figures should be used in a mitigation agreement against future crop losses and that science is contrary to no yield loss to land affected by easements.
Clean Up the River Environment (CURE) Director of Programs Peg Furshong advised against signing easements before the carbon pipeline project is approved by Minnesota government agencies.
“Pre-signed easements give them (big corporations) leverage. Be sure you know what you’re getting into and are protected,” Furshong said.
Earlier this month, the Minnesota Public Utilities Commission (PUC) ordered the preparation of an environmental impact statement (EIS) as part of the state’s first carbon capture pipeline project application. The permitting process will involve many public engagement opportunities.
EIS reports discuss the potential environmental impact of proposed federal projects. They must include a reasonable range of alternatives to the proposed action and their consequences. There is a public comment period.
The project must be approved by the Minnesota PUC and Minnesota Pollution Control Agency (MPCA).
Iowa farmer Dan Wahl said eminent domain is available for the project in Iowa but not Minnesota. He did not sign an easement and is in a court battle over it. He urged Minnesota farmers to protect themselves before signing easements.
On Aug. 30, 2022, Lamberton Highwater Ethanol CEO Brian Kletscher led a plant tour and talked about the project the plant is a part of.
“I think it’s a very safe project,” said Kletscher. “I look forward to working with Summit Solutions and the great opportunity for the ethanol industry to sequester CO2 in the ground. I think that’s very important.”
The Pipeline Safety Trust (PST), a Bellingham, Wa.-based nonprofit, public charity platform promoting pipeline safety via education and advocacy cited the 2020 Satartia, Mississippi CO2 pipeline rupture that sent several dozen people to the hospital and caused the evacuation of about 200 people from a rural area.
A PST report identified regulatory gaps and that dozens of environmental, public health and tribal groups have asked the U.S. Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration to pause carbon capture permits until new, federal safety regulations are created. The agency said last May that it would seek new rules for carbon dioxide pipelines after the 2020 pipeline rupture.