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Illinois farmers want carbon pipeline moratorium, eminent domain protection

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Illinois farmers want carbon pipeline moratorium, eminent domain protection

Dec 08, 2023 | 4:23 pm ET
By Jared Strong
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Illinois farmers want carbon pipeline moratorium, eminent domain protection
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Landowner rights and safety have been primary concerns of opponents to proposed carbon dioxide pipelines. (Photo by Andrew Burton/Getty Images)

Members of the Illinois Farm Bureau adopted policies this week that support a temporary moratorium on new carbon dioxide pipelines and a prohibition of eminent domain to construct them.

“The actions taken show that our organization’s process continues to work and reflects the opinions of a majority of IFB members,” said Bill Bodine, the group’s director of business and regulatory affairs. “Our members added to our existing policy supporting pipeline transportation of carbon dioxide captured from ethanol and fertilizer plants by including additional requirements for how the projects should be regulated.”

The policies were approved Monday by member delegates at the IFB’s annual meeting. About 330 delegates represented about three-quarters of the state’s farmers.

The IFB, guided by its members, lobbies for state and federal policies that benefit farmers. Companies that have proposed to build pipelines to transport captured carbon dioxide from ethanol plants say the projects will benefit farmers by boosting the ethanol industry, which is a major market for corn.

But the proposals have caused rifts in the agricultural community between those who prioritize higher corn prices and those who worry about the pipelines’ safety, damage to land, and the threat of eminent domain to construct and operate the pipelines against the wishes of landowners.

The Iowa Farm Bureau Federation supported legislation this year that would have limited eminent domain for the projects, sought more-detailed information about the safety risks associated with one of the pipeline projects, and urged state regulators to consider those risks when determining pipeline routes.

The Iowa group did not adopt any new policies this year regarding the pipelines, according to spokesperson Andrew Wheeler. In September 2022, it approved a policy that said companies should be required to gain voluntary land easements for 90% of their project areas before they qualify for eminent domain for the rest.

Corn and ethanol production are significant for both states. Iowa leads the nation in corn and ethanol production. Illinois produces the second-most corn and the third-most ethanol, according to federal data.

There is, however, a significant difference in ethanol production between the two states. Iowa has 41 ethanol plants with a total annual production capacity of more than 4.8 billion gallons. That is more than three times the number of plants in Illinois and more than double the total production.

The policies adopted in Illinois include support for:

— A temporary moratorium on carbon dioxide pipeline approvals until federal regulators finalize new safety rules for them, which is expected to happen late next year. Engineers for the Illinois Commerce Commission, which has the authority to approve the pipeline projects, have also recommended that new pipeline permits should wait for those rules.

— Safety requirements that include automatic notifications to emergency responders if a pipeline leak occurs, training and equipment donations to those responders, and the addition of a “distinctive odor” to the carbon dioxide.

— State legislation that prohibits the use of eminent domain to construct and operate the pipelines.

There have been two interstate pipeline proposals that involve a route connecting Iowa and Illinois, and both were recommended for rejection by engineers of the Illinois Commerce Commission due to safety concerns and other reasons.

One of the companies, Navigator CO2, abandoned its project in October. The other, Wolf Carbon Solutions, withdrew its permit application in Illinois and said it plans to refile.

A third company, Summit Carbon Solutions, wants to build a five-state pipeline that includes Iowa but not Illinois. It is nearing the end of its permit process in Iowa.