Commission staff files motion to deny Summit’s carbon pipeline permit

Motion filed ahead of three-week hearing scheduled to start Monday

By: - September 8, 2023 2:27 pm
A map of Summit Carbon Solutions' proposed carbon-capture pipeline. (Courtesy of Summit Carbon Solutions)

A map of Summit Carbon Solutions’ proposed carbon-capture pipeline. (Courtesy of Summit Carbon Solutions)

The South Dakota Public Utilities Commission’s staff has filed a motion to deny Summit Carbon Solutions’ application to construct a carbon dioxide pipeline, citing non-compliance with ordinances in Brown, McPherson, Minnehaha and Spink counties. 

The news comes after Summit withdrew its request to have the commission overrule county ordinances. Another company trying to build a carbon pipeline – Navigator CO2 – failed earlier this week to convince the commission to preempt county ordinances that impose minimum distances between pipelines, homes and other places. The commission also denied Navigator’s permit application.

The PUC staff argues in its new motion that if the county ordinances are allowed to stay in effect, Summit’s proposed route would inherently violate county setback requirements. In other words, Summit would be asking the commission to approve a project that is not in compliance with county laws.

According to the motion signed by Staff Attorney Kristen Edwards, despite Summit’s claims that it would comply with local regulations, evidence has yet to be presented that it has secured necessary waivers or county permits. Given the non-compliance and the application’s potential legal complications, the commission’s staff recommends the application be denied while allowing Summit to reapply in the future. 

The motion will be heard by the three elected public utilities commissioners on Monday at the Casey Tibbs Rodeo Center in Fort Pierre, at the beginning of what is intended to be a three-week hearing on Summit’s application. Meanwhile, Summit is in the midst of a weeks-long hearing on its planned route in Iowa, and has had its route rejected in North Dakota.


Chase Jensen of Dakota Rural Action, which has been working with opponent landowners, is applauding the motion in South Dakota. 

“To proceed with three weeks of hearings would only serve to waste even more time, money and energy that our elected officials and citizens have already had to sacrifice,” Jensen said.

Ed Fischbach is a landowner from northern Spink County with land that would be crossed by the Summit project. 

“We have felt for a long time that it’s time for both Navigator and Summit to move on, pull the plug and leave us alone,” he said Friday. 

Summit wants to capture carbon dioxide emitted from ethanol plants in five states. The gas would be pressurized into a liquid form and transmitted via pipelines to North Dakota for storage underground, to prevent the gas from trapping heat in the atmosphere. For its value in helping to fight climate change, the $5.5 billion project would be eligible for up to $1.5 billion in annual federal tax credits.

Brett Koenecke, an attorney representing Summit, responded to commission staff’s motion saying the state Supreme Court has ruled that compliance with local ordinances can come after a permit hearing. In a motion filed late Friday afternoon, Summit is urging the commission to continue the hearing, considering the extensive resources already spent, and allow them to work to comply with local regulations before building.



Editor’s note: This story has been updated since its initial publication to include a response from Summit Carbon Solutions

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Joshua Haiar
Joshua Haiar

Joshua Haiar is a reporter based in Sioux Falls. Born and raised in Mitchell, he joined the Navy as a public affairs specialist after high school and then earned a degree from the University of South Dakota. Prior to joining South Dakota Searchlight, Joshua worked for five years as a multimedia specialist and journalist with South Dakota Public Broadcasting.