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Carbon Pipeline Plan Spurs Organized Opposition from Tribes

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Monday, January 3, 2022   

An Iowa company is trying to gain support for a multi-state project involving capturing carbon from ethanol plants and moving it underground for storage. In the public debate, advocates for tribal communities say their voices should not be ignored.

Summit Carbon Solutions wants to construct a pipeline through five states, including Iowa, before the carbon dioxide is stored underground in North Dakota.

Supporters of carbon-capture technology say it benefits the environment.

Brian Jorde, managing lawyer at the Domina Law Firm, who is involved in legal strategies to fight such projects, said there are too many unknowns.

"How can these companies guarantee that there won't be a catastrophic disaster in the future when they really have no idea what the formations will look like?" Jorde questioned.

He suggested there is no way of knowing yet if the carbon will move beyond storage boundaries. He spoke at a recent forum hosted by the Great Plains Action Society, along with regional tribal leaders.

They say the projects not only threaten landowners, but could also affect water and other resources for Indigenous communities, even if the pipes run near their lands and not through them. Summit insists it will ensure meaningful consultation with tribes.

Donielle Wanatee, a member of the Meskwaki Nation, said they have seen companies aggressively try to secure land in past projects, including the Dakota Access oil pipeline. She sees it happening again with Summit, even before permits are approved.

"This is just a scary thing, not just for Iowans, but for everybody who isn't aware of this," Wanatee contended.

Environmental and tribal groups said residents along the proposed route must be informed, and urged them to speak up.

They argued Summit is moving fast to convince landowners to agree to land easements. The company describes the pipeline as the largest carbon capture and storage project in the world and would safely store up to 12 million tons of CO2 annually.


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