Summit adjusts proposed pipeline route in North Dakota

By: - August 21, 2023 1:42 pm

North Dakota is no stranger to energy pipelines, but Summit Carbon Solutions is proposing a new route after regulators denied a permit in that state. Here, workers install a section of oil pipeline on July 25, 2013 outside Watford City, North Dakota. (Photo by Andrew Burton/Getty Images)

Summit Carbon Solutions would build its proposed carbon dioxide pipeline farther away from North Dakota’s capital city, according to a new route that is meant to assuage commissioners who denied the company a permit this month.

The state is an important part of Summit’s project, which would transport captured carbon dioxide from more than 30 ethanol plants in five states to North Dakota for underground sequestration. It includes more than 2,000 miles of pipe. The North Dakota permit denial prompted opponents in Iowa to call for a hold on the Iowa Utilities Board’s permit proceedings.

Summit Carbon Solutions’ modified route (in pink) would stray farther from Bismarck, North Dakota. (Image courtesy of North Dakota Public Service Commission filing)

Summit’s proposed adjustment would shift the pipeline farther north of Bismarck — the second-most-populous city in the state — in response to concerns that it has the potential to impede the city’s growth.

That change would lengthen the pipeline path by about seven miles. The initial proposal spanned about 320 miles in the state.

The company also modified the route in several places to avoid landowners who don’t want the pipeline on their properties.

Summit on Friday asked the North Dakota Public Service Commission to reconsider its Aug. 4 denial of a siting permit for the company. The three-member commission said the evidence it considered did not show “the project will produce minimum adverse impacts upon the welfare of the citizens of North Dakota,” according to its written decision.

The permit denial was an aberration for the state, which is one of the largest oil producers in the country. The commission has not rejected any other pipeline siting permits in at least nine years, said Victor Schock, director of public utilities for the commission.

“I don’t recall the last time we rejected a pipeline permit,” he said.

The commission’s last siting permit denial for a utility project was in 2019, Schock said. That was for a wind farm.

It was Summit’s insistence that the record of evidence was complete for its application — and that no further hearings were required — that led some of its information to be excluded from full consideration, Schock said.

“The problem is that the record isn’t complete until you get the evidence entered and then allowed for cross examination,” he said.

The company’s motion for reconsideration and the information that accompanies it seeks to remedy that. The motion calls for a one-day hearing “for the limited purpose of presenting witness testimony.”

The commission had noted there were deficiencies in the record of evidence pertaining to cultural sites, public wildlife areas, geologically unstable areas and landowner impacts.

Schock said the company’s motion for reconsideration is allowed by state rules, but “I can’t speak to whether the commission will grant the petition or not. We will certainly need to review what the appropriate next step is.”

Schock is not a member of the commission but rather part of the commission’s staff who helps facilitate the process. If the commissioners deny the reconsideration request, Summit can appeal in state court or file a new application with the commission.

The commission’s denial of the permit was about 10 months after Summit applied.

State regulators in Iowa and South Dakota are poised to hold final hearings for the company’s permits. Iowa’s starts on Tuesday.

“With the Iowa Utilities Board hearings starting this week, the South Dakota Public Utilities Commission hearings starting next month, and the filing of the petition for reconsideration in North Dakota, we believe our project will still, if approved, move into construction in the first half of 2024,” the company said.

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Jared Strong
Jared Strong

Senior reporter Jared Strong has written about Iowans and the important issues that affect them for more than 15 years, previously for the Carroll Times Herald and the Des Moines Register.