Landowners 'disappointed' as Minnehaha County defers moratorium on CO2 pipeline permits, land use

·3 min read
A group of over 20 residents listening in on Minnehaha County Commission's discussion considering a twelve-month moratorium on pipelines, just weeks after Brown County approved a similar moratorium to halt Iowa-based Summit Carbon Solution's permitting process for their planned CO2 pipeline. Photo taken at the new Minnehaha County Commission room on Tuesday, August 2, 2022.
A group of over 20 residents listening in on Minnehaha County Commission's discussion considering a twelve-month moratorium on pipelines, just weeks after Brown County approved a similar moratorium to halt Iowa-based Summit Carbon Solution's permitting process for their planned CO2 pipeline. Photo taken at the new Minnehaha County Commission room on Tuesday, August 2, 2022.

Landowner Joy Hohn, along with at least 20 others, walked out of the Minnehaha County Commission room this week, "disappointed" elected officials opted not to pass a temporary block on CO2 pipelines.

"Regardless of PUC's timeline, someone needs to address public safety standards for the rest of us," said Hohn. "We're disappointed."

Minnehaha County commission's five-member board voted down a one-year moratorium "on the issuance of any permits and/or approval of land uses for transmission pipelines," with a 4-1 vote during its weekly meeting Tuesday morning.

More: Summit Carbon Solutions seeks ruling to prevent South Dakota landowners from stopping surveys

This comes shortly after Hand County went back on their moratorium on Summit Carbon Solutions' CO2 pipeline, and after the Iowa-based agricultural energy company filed paperwork to countersue a group of McPherson County landowners who are challenging a state law allowing companies to survey land without consent, according to the Aberdeen American News.

Summit has been under fire from elected officials and landowners alike for public safety concerns with their $4.5 billion CO2 pipeline, starting last fall.

One-year moratorium deferred until PUC sets timeline

In further discussion, commissioners supported deferring a temporary zoning ordinance on gas and liquid transmission pipelines. They preferred waiting for South Dakota Public Utilities Commission to set forth a timeframe on how they plan to address landowners' concerns about public safety and eminent domain with Summit Carbon Solution's 2,000-mile CO2 pipeline project.

"Right now, [PUC] have no timeline for how they're going to address this issue," said commissioner Jean Bender. "... I think we could wait until the time the PUC sets that timeframe for us to schedule a hearing if we suddenly want to move forward with this ordinance."

Commissioner Jeff Barth, running for a seat at the South Dakota Public Utilities Commission, was the only voice of dissent among the Commission at their Tuesday morning discussion about a CO2 moratorium. Photo taken at the Minnehaha County Administration Building on Tuesday, August 2, 2022.
Commissioner Jeff Barth, running for a seat at the South Dakota Public Utilities Commission, was the only voice of dissent among the Commission at their Tuesday morning discussion about a CO2 moratorium. Photo taken at the Minnehaha County Administration Building on Tuesday, August 2, 2022.

Commissioner Jeff Barth, who is running as a PUC candidate this November, was the lone dissenting vote. Barth supported opening the meeting for public comment, but commission chair Cindy Heiberger clarified the meeting was not a public hearing.

PUC candidate uses commission role to attack pipeline supporters at meeting

Barth, from his chair on the board, took the opportunity to address Dan Lederman, Republican Party chair, who was sitting in the audience at the meeting.

"I see Dan Lederman is here, who is a top lobbyist for Summit pipeline people and wearing their shirt emblazoned with Summit Pipeline Solutions," Barth said. "How much are they paying you do that?"

More: Brown County Commission approves one-year moratorium on transmission pipelines

Heiberger responded that Barth's comments were out of place and should be directed to Lederman on the side. Commissioner Dean Karsky emphasized the county only has one shot at setting a moratorium on pipelines and supports "proceeding with caution."

Betty Strom, a local landowner and opponent to Summit Carbon Solutions' CO2 pipeline, stands in the parking lot after the Minnehaha County Commission meeting with a "No Trespassing" sign on Tuesday, August 2, 2022.
Betty Strom, a local landowner and opponent to Summit Carbon Solutions' CO2 pipeline, stands in the parking lot after the Minnehaha County Commission meeting with a "No Trespassing" sign on Tuesday, August 2, 2022.

"Counties are required to conduct, or in good faith, intend to conduct studies within a reasonable time for the purpose of considering a comprehensive plan," Karsky said. "To jump into a moratorium just to do it absolutely makes no sense to me."

He also reminded the public the county has nothing to do with eminent domain, a legal process, and has little authority on the issue. Some residents, including Gary Meyer, a frequent attendee at commission meetings, left after being told there would be no opportunity for comment.

More: Minnehaha County Democrat lodges attacks against Republicans allegedly backing Summit pipeline

In closing, Heiberger advised landowners lobby legislators at the capitol, talk to PUC and continue to watch the issue as it unfolds.

Email human rights reporter Nicole Ki at nki@argusleader.com or follow on Twitter at @_nicoleki.

This article originally appeared on Sioux Falls Argus Leader: Minnehaha County officials vote down CO2 pipeline moratorium