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Environmentalists Build Opposition to CO2 Pipelines at Des Moines Hearing

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Wednesday, May 31, 2023   

The federal Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration regulates carbon dioxide pipelines, and is holding a two-day conference in Des Moines to take public input and discuss issues surrounding the pipelines.

Opponents believe they threaten air and water quality as well as the people who live near them. Ethanol producers say removing carbon dioxide via pipelines and burying it deep in the ground through a process known as carbon capture and sequestration is an effective way to address safety and environmental concerns.

Ava Auen-Ryan, director of farming and environment for the group Iowa Citizens for Community Improvement, said environmentalists want a federal moratorium on the pipelines until they can be studied more thoroughly, and will make it clear to federal regulators at the conference.

"I think we hope to build pressure on the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration to do their job well," Auen-Ryan explained. "Also to build pressure on state and federal entities to enact a moratorium on CO2 pipelines."

The agenda showed the committee will discuss public awareness, emergency response and effective communication with emergency first responders and with the public during the conference, which takes place today and tomorrow.

Beyond the potential long-term environmental impacts and health implications, Auen-Ryan also cautioned about the immediate human threats posed in the event a pipeline should rupture, and pointed to a break in Mississippi three years ago, sickening 45 people.

Ryan emphasized the very nature of carbon dioxide, which displaces oxygen in the environment, makes it extremely dangerous in an emergency.

"Gas-combustion vehicles; they can't work," Auen-Ryan pointed out. "They need oxygen to work, so that means that emergency response folks cannot get into those communities and people cannot leave the communities via car. And we also know that rural communities in Iowa are not equipped to respond to something like that. "

The agency will also discuss safety expectations for pipeline operators as well as the general state of pipeline infrastructure. There are currently three companies planning to build carbon dioxide pipelines in Iowa.

Disclosure: Iowa Citizens for Community Improvement contributes to our fund for reporting on Climate Change/Air Quality, Environmental Justice, Human Rights/Racial Justice, and Rural/Farming Issues. If you would like to help support news in the public interest, click here.


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