Landowners prepare for hearing against Summit Carbon Solutions
ABERDEEN, S.D. (Dakota News Now) - The tension between landowners and Summit Carbon Solutions is continuing in court.
On Monday, Brown County landowner Craig Schaunaman and Spink County landowner Ed Fischbach spoke about their struggles with Summit Carbon Solutions to the Aberdeen Democratic Forum.
The pipeline will run through more than a dozen counties in South Dakota. The purpose is to capture carbon dioxide from ethanol plants and sequester it underground in North Dakota. This will help reduce the carbon emission footprints of the plants. Some landowners, however, are resisting the project due to threats of eminent domain being utilized.
A few setbacks came for the landowners this year during legislative session.
House Bill 1133 would have excluded carbon dioxide as a common carrier. House Bill 1230 would have clarified references to the court in a condemnation action. Landowners affected by the Summit Carbon Solutions carbon dioxide pipeline were hoping both bills would pass to give them leverage against Summit utilizing eminent domain to survey and construct the pipeline.
Both bills were moved to the 41st Legislative Day by the Senate Commerce and Energy Committee, but Fischbach said the support the landowners did receive was a win, regardless of the outcome.
”Looking back a year ago, we couldn’t even get anybody to sponsor legislation. We feel we’ve made tremendous progress. We got a vote out of the House that was a large majority, which was very encouraging. I feel that we would have had a lot of support on the Senate floor too, it’s just that the committee wouldn’t let us bring it out,” said Fischbach.
On Tuesday, landowners from Spink, McPherson, Edmunds and Brown County will face Summit Carbon Solutions in court.
Summit filed a lawsuit against landowners in those counties that refused to allow survey teams onto their property, including Schaunaman.
”Where I come from, this is a landowner’s rights issue to me. For one, I don’t think that the legislature can grant that authority for someone to come in and just survey my property without just compensation, and that’s what you’re going to hear tomorrow,” said Schaunaman.
Schaunaman said he doesn’t believe Summit should be allowed to survey unless they receive a permit from the Public Utilities Committee. The application hearing for the pipeline project is scheduled for September.
“At the point they came in and requested the survey, they hadn’t even applied for a permit. I didn’t feel that there was anything to survey because there was nothing to survey for because they hadn’t one: even applied and two: been granted a permit in this process,” said Schaunaman.
Fischbach said that if the court rules in landowners’ favor, it could help reform eminent domain laws.
”Frankly, that’s what this is all about. They’re using our eminent domain law to force landowners to survey. If they’re allowed this way, just to survey, then I guess the eminent domain is just that we’re fair game. We want to prevent that from happening if we can,” said Fischbach.
Despite setbacks during the 2023 legislative session and the upcoming battle in court, Schaunaman says the opposition effort is still going strong.
”The Landowners for Eminent Domain Reform are still very active out there. Obviously we weren’t successful in the legislature, but it’s just one step in the process,” said Schaunaman.
The following statement was given to Dakota News Now by Summit Carbon Solutions:
“While we can’t comment on ongoing litigation, Summit Carbon Solutions remains incredibly encouraged that South Dakota landowners have voluntarily signed easement agreements accounting for nearly two-thirds of the company’s proposed route in the state. This overwhelming level of support is a clear reflection that they believe, like we do, that our project will ensure the long-term viability of the ethanol industry, strengthen the agricultural marketplace for farmers, and generate tens of millions of dollars in new revenue for local communities across the Midwest. We look forward to continuing to advance this critical project through the regulatory process in South Dakota and the other states in our project footprint.”
The court hearing between Summit Carbon Solutions and landowners from Spink, Edmunds, McPherson and Brown County will take place at the Brown County Courthouse at 9 a.m. on March 14th.
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