Landowners unite against Summit Carbon Solutions pipeline

Landowners in Spink County and the surrounding areas are coming together to oppose the Summit Carbon Solutions CO2 pipeline set to run through their properties.
Published: Jun. 3, 2022 at 7:11 PM CDT
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SPINK COUNTY, S.D. (Dakota News Now) - Landowners in Spink County and the surrounding areas are coming together to oppose the Summit Carbon Solutions CO2 pipeline set to run through their properties.

Ed Fischbach of Spink County is just one landowner whose property is along the pipeline’s main route. After Fischbach and other landowners were told that Summit would not rule out using eminent domain if necessary in November of 2021, the landowners began to organize an opposition.

”I had farmers coming up to me, tapping me on the shoulder and asking me for my phone number. They all said, ‘We’ve got to stop this. We’ve got to organize. Let’s exchange names and phone numbers.’ That’s how we all got started with the landowner opposition movement,” said Fischbach.

Fischbach believes signing an easement to grant Summit the right to construct the pipeline would mean losing land forever.

”We don’t believe eminent domain should be granted to any private individual or private company to take our land, but if you sign a voluntary easement, and the project is abandoned or stopped in the future, you will never get that easement back,” said Fischbach.

The group of concerned landowners has held public meetings in areas such as Aberdeen, Leola and Highmore since October of 2021.

Fischbach and other landowners are concerned about the pipeline’s effect on their livestock, and who would be responsible if it leaked.

”Any of us with livestock, whether you have any kind of an animal. If that leaks, what’s it going to do? A lot of the insurance companies, farmers are checking into their liability policies and finding out that they aren’t going to get covered on this because of the hazardous material that its carrying and the pollution that it is,” said Fischbach.

Fischbach’s neighbor, Doug Braun, is along the alternative route for Summit’s pipeline. He says they want to build the pipeline between his home and his 4,000 head of cattle.

”There’s multi-million dollars sitting on the hill, and you just can’t let somebody come in with no liability and they’re not going to be responsible of killing all those cattle. That’s umpteen-million dollars,” said Braun.

For these reasons, the group of landowners is filing a motion to dismiss Summit’s request to extend their permit application deadline with the Public Utilities Commission.

“Rather than granting them an extension, let’s kick the whole permit and make them start over, because the reason they’re asking for and extension is because they can’t get people to sign,” said Fischbach.

130 landowners from South Dakota will be represented by Brian Jordie from Domina Law Group in Omaha. The Public Utilities Commission will hear the motion to both extend the permit application deadline and the motion to dismiss it on June 8th.

”We’re forced to spend money out of our own pockets, thousands of dollars now, to hire legal counsel to represent us to try to protect our own property that none of us asked for this to begin with. So, by working together, with a single legal representation, we can cut our costs and present a united voice,” said Fischbach.

The landowners will be meeting Sunday, June 5th at the Mellette Community Center at 6 p.m. to discuss their concerns and meet virtually with Jordie. Governor candidates Jamie Smith and Steven Haugaard will be in attendance.

”Last October, we couldn’t hardly get a politician to talk to us. Nobody cared. Now, we’re getting them calling us asking to come meet with us. That’s exciting,” said Fischbach.

Dakota News Now received the following statement from Jamie Smith:

I share many of the concerns that citizens of Northeastern South Dakota have about the pipeline. In these conversations, safety, public benefit, and transparency are on everyone’s mind. If the landowners can come to an agreement with Summit, that’s their business, but as Governor, I will never subvert landowners’ rights for the benefit of private corporations.”

When Governor Kristi Noem’s team was reached out to regarding her attendance, Dakota News Now was given the following statement:

“Governor Noem will not be attending the meeting. The Public Utilities Commission has jurisdiction over this project, and it is working its way through the appropriate process, including vital public feedback.”

Summit Carbon Solutions says they have had success receiving voluntary easements so far, according to the following statement given to Dakota News Now:

“Summit Carbon Solutions’ proposed carbon capture and storage project will allow ethanol plants across the Midwest to sell their product at a premium in the growing number of states and countries that have adopted low-carbon fuel standards, which will strengthen the marketplace for corngrowers and help keep land prices strong long-term.

Our team is working closely with landowners across the Midwest to create a mutually beneficial partnership built around voluntary easements. We are incredibly encouraged by the response from landowners in this initial stage. Across the five states where our project is proposed to operate, the company has secured more than 1,400 voluntary easements. We look forward to continuing to engage landowners, answer their questions, and secure additional voluntary easements.

Our project represents a nearly $800 million investment in South Dakota that will open new economic opportunities for ethanol producers, strengthen the marketplace for corn growers, and generate tens of millions of additional property taxes to help local communities support our schools, hospitals, roads, and more. Summit Carbon Solutions will work, as we have over the past year, to help the state realize these significant and long-lasting benefits, while ensuring the project is also safe for landowners, communities, and the environment.”

Fischbach says the group plans to push for eminent domain reform in the state next legislative session.

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