PSC to mull making carbon pipeline safety information public

Submitted Photo Those wanting more information about a potential rupture of a proposed carbon dioxide pipeline in North Dakota say certain details, such as how far the harmful emissions could spread, could be separated from security matters related to bad actors accessing the information. Photo from Adobe. Stock

BISMARCK – North Dakota’s Public Service Commission will lead a hearing today to consider a safety aspect of a high-profile project involving a proposed carbon-dioxide pipeline.

Summit Carbon Solutions wants to construct a multistate pipeline to capture emissions from ethanol plants in the Midwest for underground storage in North Dakota. The company is asking the state to keep sealed any dispersion models indicating how far the carbon dioxide would spread if the pipeline were to burst.

Eliot Huggins, field organizer for the Dakota Resource Council, said interveners feel the information should be made public to help local stakeholders make informed decisions.

“The impacts of this pipeline potentially expand up to three miles,” Huggins noted. “There’s homes within 500 feet and schools within maybe one or two miles, they kind of start to get concerned about it.”

Citing federal protocols, Summit contends the information needs to be shielded from bad actors who would want to use it to carry out an attack. It feels only state and federal regulators should see such details.

Beyond seeking permit approval, the company has been trying to persuade landowners in multiple states to agree to land easements for the proposed route. Tomorrow’s hearing gets underway at 8:30 a.m. in the State Capitol Judicial Wing in Bismarck.

Burleigh County has been clashing with Summit over recently adopted local ordinances.

Mitch Flanagan, planning director for Burleigh County, feels the company’s arguments about security do not carry much weight when you consider many parts of the project would be easily visible.

“A terrorist, in our mind, doesn’t need a plume model to go over there and attack a pump station, which is all elevated pipe. It’s above-ground pipe,” Flanagan pointed out. “They’re going to be four of those stations just in Burleigh County alone. So, if they want to blow up the pipeline, they can do it right there. They don’t need a modeling report.”

Meanwhile, those concerned about the project remain hopeful the state attorney general will open an investigation into where some of the investments for the pipeline are coming from. The attorney general recently stated he would hold off on such a move for the time being.

Disclosure: The Dakota Resource Council contributes to the PNS fund for reporting on Climate Change/Air Quality, Energy Policy, Environment, and Rural/Farming.


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