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‘Carbon Express’ pipeline faces skepticism in Minnesota farm country

LAMBERTON, Minnesota – One of the world’s largest planned carbon storage projects is meeting resistance in rural Minnesota as an Iowa company tries to entice landowners to allow a carbon dioxide pipeline to pass under their fields.

Summit Carbon Solutions, which is developing the $5.2 billion “Midwest Carbon Express,” has promised to pay farmers and other landowners for easements, in some cases by waiving five-figure signing bonuses.

A company executive said Summit had secured about half of the easements it needed in Minnesota. Even so, the pushback was evident in this small farming town in southwestern Minnesota on Monday night where about 120 people, mostly landowners, filled the American Legion hall for a two-hour community meeting on pipelines. of carbon.

Summit’s project would capture carbon dioxide emitted by more than 30 ethanol plants in five states and transport the liquid carbon dioxide under high pressure to North Dakota, where it would be injected underground for permanent storage. Lamberton is home to one such plant, Highwater Ethanol.

Proponents say every possible approach must be taken to reduce greenhouse gas emissions; opponents call carbon pipelines a bogus climate solution that continues to rely on fossil fuels.

Monday’s meeting was organized by Carbon Pipelines Minnesota, an opposition group led by Clean Up the River Environment (CURE), a Montevideo-based environmental nonprofit focused on rural communities. The group rallied landowners facing the opportunity to sign an easement with Summit, whose pipeline would run about 240 miles in Minnesota.

The main message Monday: Landowners need to carefully weigh the risks and negotiate a fair deal if they decide to sign.

“This is a community issue, not just a private landowner issue, because it will affect all of us,” CURE director Peg Furshong told the crowd.

Landowners are questioning the benefits of global warming and the safety of pipelines and carbon dioxide sequestration, as well as the terms of easement agreements. There is also disgust with the way Summit land agents have treated landowners. The state has ordered a full environmental review of the pipeline, which has yet to be approved.

“Icing on a cow pie,” is how a farmer from Wabasso, Minn., described the easement agreement Summit gave him on Monday.

In documents filed with the state Utilities Commission, some property owners said they had revoked survey permission and asked Summit to stop contacting them. A Jackson County landowner wrote that he had to chase agents off his land.

During the meeting, Furshong spoke about the carbon dioxide pipeline that burst after heavy rains in 2020 near Satartia, Mississippi, injuring more than 40 people. She also called the amount of carbon dioxide Summit says it will sequester each year “a drop in a 5-gallon bucket,” given the volume of carbon dioxide that needs to be removed from the atmosphere to slow warming. climatic.

Two Minnesota landowners told the crowd how their farmlands never fully recovered from easements for old pipeline or power line projects. Topsoil removal destroys soil structure and heavy equipment can compact it, they said. Bob Ruebel, a landowner near Olivia, Minnesota, told the room that two decades later, yields on that easement land are still down 30% to 35%, and the company has stopped pay for these losses.

“You shouldn’t subsidize their pipeline,” Ruebel told attendees. “You gotta get up and do something, folks, or they’ll run you over.”

There was strong interest in the CURE maps hanging at the back of the room showing which landowners had signed easements in local counties. CURE has tracked the signed easements to the county clerk’s offices where they are filed. By his tally, about 240 have signed in Minnesota.

In an interview, Summit COO Jimmy Powell said 240 sounds was about right. Powell said the project is progressing and said the pipeline will be safe because carbon dioxide is not combustible and opposition to Lamberton is no greater than anywhere else.

Powell declined to discuss financial terms or bonuses, but said the company pays “a significant bonus” to landowners in easement agreements that is “two to three times the value of the land”. The agreements place few restrictions on landowners, he said.

Powell said the stories of aggressive officers made no sense. Minnesota is the only state Summit passes through where he doesn’t have eminent domain power, he said, and his company’s only lever is to be respectful.

“We are trying to acquire 2,000 miles of right of way in 18 months,” he said. “I don’t know if this has been done before,”

The Summit Carbon Pipeline is one of two proposed to cross Minnesota. The other, from Texas-based Navigator CO2 Ventures, would reach about 12 miles into Minnesota and head to a storage site in Illinois.

Summit’s project aims to remove up to 18 million metric tons of carbon dioxide per year, making ethanol from plants cleaner and eligible for low-carbon fuel standards in states like California. Carbon pipelines received a major boost from the Cut Inflation Act of 2022, the country’s landmark climate legislation, which increased the tax credit for carbon captured at industrial facilities and stored under earth. The credit went from $50 a ton to $85 a ton, which Summit would pocket.

Several attendees at Monday’s meeting lamented the subsidy.

In an earlier interview, a local resident said she regretted signing an easement. Kerri Zimmerman, a school bus driver whose family farms near Lamberton, said she knew nothing about the carbon pipeline when she signed an easement agreement last fall and accepted the check from $26,000 bonus that the company’s agent had on hand.

Zimmerman said she was “not business as usual” when the agent came to her home in August because she was recovering from surgery.

“We didn’t even know what questions to ask,” she said, adding that the bonus money was in the bank in a certificate of deposit.

“I would gladly return it to undo it,” she said.

Anita Vogel, a Lamberton resident and landowner who opened Monday’s meeting, also laments her family’s interaction with Summit. She accused a Summit agent of taking advantage of her 76-year-old mother when he came to the house last spring. It was the day her mother arranged for her father, who has vascular dementia, to return from a nursing home after a difficult week of emergency room visits and hospitalization. She signed the bondage “to get them off her back because she was trying to take care of my dad,” Vogel said.

Summit’s Powell said he understands Vogel’s mother was not alone, a daughter-in-law was present and they were “comfortable” with the signing. “We think his mother was very capable,” he said.

Vogel said her sisters-in-law deny either of them were there.

Fortunately, Vogel said, the deal was void because the land is held in trust and an easement would require multiple signatures, including hers, and she won’t sign.

Vogel said the sum and signing bonus Summit was offering their mother was insufficient for lifelong servitude.

Vogel provided a copy of the email she sent the agent in July expressing her concerns. Vogel wrote that neither he nor Summit Carbon Solutions were welcome on the family’s property and she didn’t want them to contact her again. The company honored this request.

Vogel is among a dozen landowners who have filed verbal or written complaints with the attorney general’s office, according to Furshong.

startribune Gt Itly

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