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Dakotas among states still weighing controversial pipeline plan

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Mike Moen

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(Prairie News Service) New public hearings and legal decisions are expected in the coming weeks and months about a controversial pipeline project in the upper Midwest. The company behind the effort appears ready for the long haul, but so are its opponents.

Summit Carbon Solutions has been seeking permits and trying to acquire land in multiple states, including North Dakota, for a maze of pipelines it wants to build. The pipes would carry ethanol plant emissions and store them underground.

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Brian Jorde, an attorney representing property owners challenging the project, said despite some regulatory setbacks, it is clear the company is still forging ahead.

"Every state is still in play," Jorde pointed out. "There's nothing different from a year ago than right now."

This week, Jorde made arguments before the South Dakota Supreme Court in a complex element of the case tied to landowners' rights. And North Dakota regulators are formalizing plans for public hearings for Summit's new permit application, after saying "no" last year. Summit said the initiative has environmental and economic benefits. However, opponents worry about safety issues and are skeptical of the carbon sequestration claims.

Like North Dakota, South Dakota regulators last year rejected Summit's initial permit application and the actions have pushed back the project's timeline. Jorde hopes the public does not lose interest, especially residents concerned about pipelines running through their property.

"If you don't speak up, the assumption is you don't mind and you won't have a voice," Jorde emphasized.

The latest North Dakota public hearings could begin as early this spring. Jorde noted it could take several months for a decision on the South Dakota legal case. And Summit is expected to try again for permit approval there. Other states connected to the project include Iowa, Minnesota and Nebraska.