SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (KELO) — Sen. Lee Schoenbeck (R-Watertown) made it known he was not happy with the possibility of a carbon dioxide pipeline traveling through a housing development in Watertown.

Schoenbeck’s two Feb. 28 emails are posted on the South Dakota Public Utilities (PUC) website on the proposed CO2 pipeline by Summit Carbon Solutions (SCS).

Schoenbeck demanded the pipeline be moved from the Harmony Hill area and said in one email that it was a route issue and an eminent domain issue.

But according to a copy of a letter from a legal representative of SCS, the proposed pipeline had been moved from the Harmony Hill area some months prior to Schoenbeck’s email.

Harmony Hill is a development on about 500 acres owned by the Benedictine Sisters. According to the Harmony Hill website the planned project “is (a) one-of-a-kind intergenerational campus” made up of apartments, condominiums, twin-homes, and single family residences. 

Schoenbeck said in an email to KELOLAND News, “They (SCS) responded the same day that the route moved and emailed us the new route. I don’t know when they moved it, but we learned that day.” Schoenbeck responded on March 5 and said he was on vacation.

SCS has applied to the PUC for a permit to run about 469 miles of C02 pipeline through the state as part of a roughly 2,000 mile project. The pipeline also includes parts of Iowa, Minnesota and Nebraska. Summit would capture CO2 at ethanol plants and transport it to a burial site in North Dakota.

“FYI. This is a route issue and an eminent domain issue. They need to not go through that new housing project or they won’t like the legislation they’ll see next year. Please free to share with whoever can resolve the conflict. Lee,” was the wording of the Feb. 28 Schoenbeck email to PUC member Kristie Fiegen, Chris Nelson and Gary Hanson PUC. Fiegen withdrew from the PUC consideration in mid-February because of potential conflict of interest.

Schoenbeck described the route as an eminent domain issue. PUC commissioner Nelson said in a Feb. 27 email response that eminent domain is not a PUC issue.

“As you know the commission is not involved with eminent domain.” Nelson said. “The PUC is not involved in the easement acquisition process that occurs between applicants and landowners. Likewise, the PUC does not have a role in the eminent domain process, which is handled in the circuit court system. Landowners with concerns about these issues should seek advice from their personal attorney.”

A second email was sent to Jim Seurer, the chief executive officer of Glacial Lakes Energy and several Watertown officials.

The second email reads: “Jim, A group of us in Watertown just got advised that your proposed pipeline goes right through the middle of the community’s large new development at Harmony Hill. You need to talk to the pipeline people. That route is a nonstarter that you don’t want to be in the middle of. Let me know what you’re going to do about it. Lee”

Seurer said in a KELOLAND News interview that SCS was likely not aware of the subdivision when it made its original proposed route. Glacial Lakes is a partner in the project and will supply CO2 to the SCS, Seurer said.

The proposed route was moved from the Harmony Hill area but it had already been moved some months prior to Schoenbeck’s Feb. 26 emails, according to a copy of a letter from Brett Koenecke, a Pierre lawyer working with Summit.

SCS provided KELOLAND News with a copy of Brett Koenecke’s letter.

Koenecke said in the March 7 letter to PUC executive director Patty Van Gerpen that when he received Schoenbeck’s Feb. 26 emails, he “immediately inquired of the SCS project development team.”

Koenecke said he learned that the route had been “significantly altered some months ago and no longer impacted the property about which (Schoenbeck) was speaking and concerned.”

Summit Carbons said in a statement shared with KELOLAND News by company spokesman Courtney Ryan, “Modifications to the route at this early stage are not unusual. In this case, we are confident based on feedback from many of those involved that the issue has been resolved to everyone’s satisfaction.”

Summit Carbon Solutions did not respond to KELOLAND News questions about whether it perceived Schoenbeck’s emails as a threat of legislation that would be an obstacle to the CO2 pipeline project.

Schoenbeck did not respond to email questions from KELOLAND News on whether his emails could be perceived as threat or whether he was referring to the possibility that he or someone would introduce legislation that would cause obstacles to the Summit Carbon proposed CO2 route.

The PUC’s public meetings about the project start on March 22.