Remember the Keystone XL pipeline? Welcome to the Summit pipeline. Instead of oil, the pipeline would carry millions of tons of carbon dioxide from ethanol plants to be injected into underground rock formations rather than dispersed as pollutants in the air. The 2,000 mile pipeline would carry carbon dioxide across five states to underground storage in North Dakota. If built, it would be the largest carbon dioxide pipeline in the world.
The idea behind the Summit pipeline is to take carbon dioxide from ethanol plants, where it is a byproduct of corn being turned into fuel, and transport it for underground storage. A similar project proposed by Navigator CO2 Ventures would keep some of its carbon above ground for commercial use and store the rest underground in Illinois.
The project, if build, would be a major expansion of the country’s existing network of more than 5,300 miles of carbon pipelines. Some along the routes question whether the technology is fully proven and safe, citing the explosion of a carbon pipeline in Mississippi in 2020 that let to the hospitalization of 45 people and a federal review of safety standards.
Though both Navigator and Summit have said they want to reach agreements with landowners, providing cash and legal guarantees in exchange for the right to bury and maintain their pipelines, the companies have also made clear that they would be willing to use eminent domain if state permits were granted and negotiations reached an impasse.
In an agriculture-dependent region where farmers’ ties to their land often stretch back generations, the right to decide what goes in a field and what does not is sacrosanct.
Farmers are far from unanimous, though. Scores of them have already signed easements, and some are actively cheering on the projects.
As negotiations continue with individual landowners, the debates over the pipelines’ fates are shifting to state legislatures and permitting boards.
Bills that would make permitting or construction of pipelines more difficult were introduced this year in Iowa, South Dakota and North Dakota, all Republican-controlled states.
Past events have provided a play book for fighting any proposed pipeline. The opponents to this pipeline included Native Americans, farmers and environmentalists who have proved they are willing to go to court.