In a compromise, the Minnesota Public Utilities Commission will require Summit Carbon Solutions to prepare a full environmental impact statement as part of the first-ever carbon capture pipeline project in the state.
But the environmental impact statement will only cover a short portion of the pipeline project, about 10 miles northwest of Minnesota, and will exclude the portion planned for west-central and southern Minnesota.
The scope of the environmental review was one of the first key issues before the PUC on Thursday as it considers Summit’s permit application.
So far, Summit has only applied for permits in Otter Tail and Wilken counties to connect the Green Plains ethanol plant in Fergus Falls to a larger network of carbon capture pipelines. , about 2,000 miles in five states.
Summit’s plan is to collect greenhouse gases from ethanol plants and store liquid carbon dioxide underground in western North Dakota.
Summit officials say the project will benefit ethanol plants and the corn industry, allowing plants to sell low-carbon ethanol in states with a clean fuel standard, such as the California. Summit may qualify for federal tax credits for carbon storage.
Summit plans five more factories in west-central and southern Minnesota, but those factories will need to be part of a separate permit application.
Minnesota environmental group CURE – Clean Up the River Environment – had asked the PUC that all of the planned Summit pipeline in Minnesota be included in the same environmental review.
Summit argued that an environmental impact statement was not necessary to meet the requirements of Minnesota’s Environmental Policy Act and that a different environmental review defined for pipeline cases would be sufficient.
But the PUC exercised its discretion to request an EIA, which would include a public comment phase. Commissioners approved the ISA requirement and other procedural steps in a unanimous vote.
Meanwhile, attorney Christina Brusven, representing Summit Carbon Solutions, told commissioners the company was looking at the first quarter of 2024 to begin construction.
The company previously said it plans to begin construction on the $4.5 billion project in 2023 and be operational in 2024.
Summit has not yet obtained a pipeline route permit in any of the five states on the route – Iowa, Minnesota, Nebraska, North Dakota and South Dakota.