Burleigh County will require permits for CO2 pipelines

Mar 24, 2023

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North Dakota’s Burleigh County has approved an ordinance to require special permits for companies that want to build pipelines for hazardous liquids such as carbon dioxide.

County commissioners voted 4-0 Monday night with one member absent to approve the proposal. Commissioners, however, acknowledged the ordinance is likely to draw a lawsuit from carbon-capture pipeline developer Summit Carbon Solutions, the Bismarck Tribune reported.

“Anything we can do to improve the safety to the citizens, I’m willing to take a shot at it,” Commissioner Brian Bitner said.

The proposal emerged amid pushback from landowners to Iowa-based Summit’s planned $4.5 billion Midwest Carbon Express pipeline, which would cross the county to the north of Bismarck. The pipeline would transport carbon dioxidefrom dozens of ethanol plants in five Midwestern states to North Dakota’s Oliver County for permanent storage underground so that the emissions don’t contribute to climate change.

Some landowners worry about their safety should the pipeline rupture. The ordinance requires a computer modeling report showing the blast zone, which Flanagan said is more specific than the company’s modeling for a plume that could be affected by factors such as wind and topography.

Summit touts the overall safety record of pipelines and notes that a CO2 pipeline has existed in western North Dakota for more than 20 years. It transports carbon dioxide from the Great Plains Synfuels Plant in Beulah to oil fields in Canada. Summit officials told commissioners earlier this month that CO2 pipelines are safe, and that federal regulation makes local ordinances unnecessary.

The ordinance also establishes numerous setback distances, including at least 10 miles from certain electrical, drinking water and wastewater treatment infrastructure, and at least 4 miles from a church, school, nursing home, long-term care facility or hospital. A pipeline company would have to provide proof of liability insurance and put up a bond to cover construction costs.

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