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North Dakota will hold hearing on pipeline ordinances this month


North Dakota will hold hearing on pipeline ordinances this month

Dec 01, 2023 | 5:50 pm ET
By Jared Strong
North Dakota will hold hearing on pipeline ordinances this month
Summit Carbon Solution's adjusted route (in pink) moves the proposed pipeline farther away from Bismarck, North Dakota. (Courtesy of the North Dakota Public Service Commission)

A hearing to discuss whether utility regulators in North Dakota should overrule county ordinances that limit the placement of a carbon dioxide pipeline is set for Dec. 21.

The North Dakota Public Service Commission is in the process of reconsidering an application by Summit Carbon Solutions, which seeks to build a five-state pipeline system to transport the captured greenhouse gas from ethanol plants to North Dakota for underground storage.

The newly scheduled hearing concerns ordinances in Burleigh and Emmons counties that restrict how close the pipelines can be located to cities, houses, livestock facilities and other sites. Summit has argued they are so restrictive that they might prevent the project.

Commissioners have indicated they are divided on the issue, and Summit seeks a ruling early in the reconsideration process because of the effects it will have on its proposed route.

In August, the commission unanimously denied Summit a permit for the project because the company had failed to show it minimized its impact on residents. At the time, the commission did not make a decision about the county ordinances because it was denying the permit for other reasons.

Summit convinced the commission to reconsider its permit application with a revised route that avoids a handful of landowners who oppose the project and that is farther away from Bismarck, the capital city.

The commission’s decision to deny the company’s initial request — along with a similar decision by utility regulators in South Dakota — preceded Summit’s announcement that the completion of its pipeline system would be delayed to 2026. It had initially said the system would be operational next year.

It’s unclear how long the reconsideration process in North Dakota will take. State law does not dictate a timeline.

The commission has not yet received all of the information it has requested from Summit about its revisions to the project, said Victor Schock, the commission’s director of public utilities. After it does, the commission is likely to hold at least two further hearings to solicit feedback about the proposal.

A company spokesperson was unsure when the rest of the information will be submitted.

Summit recently paid $150,000 to the commission to cover the expenses associated with those yet-to-be-scheduled hearings, and Schock said the company will be reimbursed for whatever money goes unused.

The company’s permit process in Iowa is drawing to a conclusion. A weekslong evidentiary hearing for the project — more than 680 miles of which would be located in Iowa — concluded last month. Written arguments are due to the Iowa Utilities Board late this month, and rebuttals are due mid January. It’s unclear when the board will issue its decision.

In South Dakota, the company plans to file a new permit application. Company spokesperson Sabrina Zenor said an altered route for that state has not yet been finalized.