Brown County considers second pipeline moratorium, lawmakers file petition for special session

Brown County considers second pipeline moratorium
Published: Jul. 18, 2023 at 7:07 PM CDT
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ABERDEEN, S.D. (Dakota News Now) - County officials, landowners, and lawmakers are doing everything in their power to protect the private property rights of South Dakota citizens ahead of the Public Utilities Commission’s carbon pipeline permit hearings this fall.

A year ago, Brown County passed a moratorium on hazardous pipelines in order to give the Planning and Zoning Department time to create an ordinance that puts a setback of 1,500 feet on pipelines. That moratorium expires on Wednesday, July 19.

After an hour of discussion with nearly two dozen landowners in attendance, the Brown County Commission decided not to extend the moratorium during their meeting on Tuesday morning. Instead, the Commission has asked the Brown County State’s Attorney’s office to look into a new moratorium that would prohibit the construction of pipelines until the Public Utilities Commission makes a decision on Summit Carbon Solutions’ permit application this fall.

Summit intends to build a pipeline that will run through 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.

Questions surrounding the legality of a second moratorium were asked during the Brown County Commission meeting, and some residents are concerned that letting the first moratorium expire will send the wrong message about Brown County’s stance on carbon pipeline projects.

”The year is up. Tomorrow is the end of the moratorium. The Planning and Zoning Board has done their work and has established the 1,500-foot setback, so the question might be, when is enough time? What would you look at next? What would Planning and Zoning look at next? My concern is how PUC is going to look at it,” said Dennis Feickert, a Brown County resident and former Brown County commissioner.

The Commission anticipates having the language for a second moratorium before Summit’s hearing with the Public Utilities Commission in September.

The Brown County Commission also unanimously approved a resolution calling on the state legislature and Governor Kristi Noem to reform eminent domain laws.

State legislators from Brown County, like Representative Carl Perry, have recently filed a petition for a special session.

”We talked about doing the petition probably for about four or five weeks now. We are petitioning all the state legislators to come together in Pierre for a special session,” said Perry.

Their goal is to pass legislation that would prohibit carbon pipeline companies from utilizing eminent domain if the Public Utilities Commission does approve their permit applications. The petition will need to be signed by 24 members of the Senate and 47 members of the House of Representatives in order for a special session to be called in Pierre.

”I do believe that there are enough people to get this going. However, if it doesn’t work out, you as a landowner or you as a voter or you as a taxpayer, you will know who is standing with the landowners and who is not,” said Perry.

Summit Carbon Solutions said that 70% of the landowners affected by their project in South Dakota have signed easements.

Landowners in opposition to the proposed pipeline project said they were happy to see their elected representatives take action.

”They are doing what is right for the people and what the people want. It’s awesome to see something slowly kind of start to happen that way. They’re doing everything they can to rally more troops and to get this special session done. If we let these things slide and don’t get this changed, we’re opening up a big can of stuff in South Dakota, a can that we don’t want to get opened. I’m sure of that,” said Jared Bossly, a Brown County landowner in the path of Summit’s route.

The petition for a special session will remain open until two-thirds of lawmakers sign on, it is withdrawn, or until the 2024 legislative session begins. The Public Utilities Commission is set to review Summit Carbon Solutions’ permit application in September.