Climate change denial among hurdles for carbon capture pipeline project in SW Minnesota

Safety, eminent domain and tile lines have also been top issues at public meetings regarding the Summit Carbon Solutions pipeline.

Bushmills Ethanol Inc. plant
The Bushmills Ethanol Plant in Atwater, Minnesota, as photographed Oct. 23, 2009.
Ron Adams / West Central Tribune file photo

GRANITE FALLS, Minn.Summit Carbon Solutions hosted 15 meetings for landowners last year at locations across the 10 counties in Minnesota in which it intends to build a pipeline to transport carbon dioxide from ethanol plants.

Three issues were recurring themes at all of those meetings, held at 11 different venues, according to Joseph Caruso, external affairs coordinator for the company in Minnesota.

Safety, eminent domain, and tile lines were the top topics for landowners through whose lands the pipelines could cross, Caruso told the Yellow Medicine County Board of Commissioners on May 23.

When Summit representatives meet one-on-one with landowners, and even at a recent public hearing hosted by the Minnesota Public Utilities Commission, there’s another topic that is emerging.

It was put on the record for the Public Utilities Commission by a county commissioner in Wilkin County, according to Caruso.


“I don’t like this project,” Caruso said, paraphrasing the commissioner’s on-the-record statement. “The reason I don’t like it is I don’t believe in the underlying premise of global warming.”

“That is an issue a lot of people have when we’ve been out with the landowners,” Caruso told the commissioners. “They fundamentally don’t believe it is a problem, and they fundamentally don’t believe the government should be solving a problem that is not a problem.”

Map shows the three pipelines Summit Carbon Solutions intends to develop and the ethanol plants in Minnesota that would connect to them.
This map shows the three pipelines Summit Carbon Solutions intends to develop in North Dakota, South Dakota and Minnesota, and the ethanol plants in Minnesota that would connect to them.
Contributed / Summit Carbon Solutions

He emphasized that the company does not attempt to proselytize on the issue of climate change. For the ethanol industry, it is faced with seeing doors to its markets closed if it does not meet carbon reduction targets, he explained.

The company does not get into the argument over a transition to electric vehicles, either. The internal combustion engine will be part of the transition, and using ethanol as part of the fuel mix is important, he said.

As for safety, he said it is the top priority for the company.

“If we don’t do this safely, this project will be an abject failure,” he told commissioners at the start of the meeting.

The company does not have eminent domain authority in Minnesota. Making landowners aware of that was important at those informational meetings, he said.

Summit Carbon Solutions also knows very well the importance of maintaining the integrity of farm drainage systems, according to the company representative.


“Every person at every public meeting was concerned about their drain tile,” Caruso said.

He said it was important for the company to hold the meetings and hear the concerns of landowners. “It’d be foolish to spend the time and money on the public meetings if we didn’t listen and learn,” he said.

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Summit Carbon Solutions is seeking to develop three pipelines in Minnesota totaling 235 miles and serving 34 biofuel plants. The company will need separate permits from the Minnesota Public Utilities Commission for each of the lines, since they are not connected and represent separate projects.

The PUC is currently reviewing the permit application for the northern pipeline in Otter Tail and Wilkins counties. Summit Carbon Solutions intends to file an application for its southern pipeline in Martin County this June. Caruso said the company expects to file an application for the central pipeline for this region by the end of the year.

The central pipeline would serve the Bushmills Ethanol , Granite Falls Energy , Highwater Ethanol , and Heron Lake Bio Energy plants. The carbon dioxide would be transported to North Dakota and sequestered in a geologic reservoir more than 1½ miles deep, according to the presentation.

Tom Cherveny is a regional and outdoors reporter for the West Central Tribune.
He has been a reporter with the West Central Tribune since 1993.

Cherveny can be reached via email at or by phone at 320-214-4335.
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