SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (KELO) — If South Dakota Public Utilities grants a request for a later date for hearings on a proposed carbon dioxide pipeline it will allow for more conversation, said Chris Hill of Summit Carbon Solutions.

The conservation would include affected landowners that would provide voluntary easements for use of their land, Hill said.

“A key piece a little bit more time in the process is so we can work through those voluntary easements,” Hill said. “It’s very important for us to seek those voluntary easements and work through those fair accommodations with those landowners. This gives us more time to do that and to accommodate the requests they are asking for.”

Hill said overall the voluntary easement process is going well.

“Each and every day were signing up landowners…,” Hill said.

So far, in Iowa, the company has obtained more than 25% (of needed) signed voluntary easements, and project wide (a five-state area) the company has signed more than 1,100 total agreements, said Courtney Ryan of Summit.

But several CO2 pipeline opponents see the Summit Carbon Solutions request for an extension a bit differently.

“I think it reflects they are having trouble (getting) permission on easements, at least in my area,” said Ed Fischbach, a landowner in Spink County.

“I think this is another power play,” landowner Orrin Geide of rural Hartford said. Geide believes an extension is a way for the company to try and outlast the opposition.

“This tells us they don’t know where they want to put their pipeline,” said Bruce Mack, a landowner in McPherson County.

Summit Carbon Solutions is one of two companies that have proposed CO2 pipelines that will travel through South Dakota, southwestern Minnesota, northwest Iowa and northern Nebraska. The Summit pipeline would capture CO2 at 30 ethanol plants over a roughly 2,000 mile route including about 469 miles in South Dakota.

The captured CO2, which is now released into the air at ethanol plants, would be transported to a permanent burial site in North Dakota, Summit has said. The CO2 project would allow ethanol plants to lower carbon ratings to sell more ethanol in low carbon states such as California.

Opponents are worried about the safety of the pipeline and the possible use of eminent domain to secure the route.

The PUC’s schedule now would likely have hearings on the proposed project in the fall. Summit’s request would be for hearings from March 28 through April 5, 2023.

While there is opposition and concerns, Hill said, there are landowners and ethanol plants excited about the proposed project. They are just quieter than the opposition, he said.

Based on the nearly 400 interveners who are now part of the legal process for the PUC process and the project comments on the PUC website, opposition and concerns are strong.

“The number of interveners is quite interesting because there seems to be a belief that you have to be an intervener to have a good effective efficient dialogue with us when that’s really not the case,” Hill said. The company welcomes discussion outside the legal framework, he said.

Although people may have questions and concerns about the proposed project when they learn more about the project including the intense permitting process, their concerns are (often) eliminated, Hill said.

“We’re requesting this extension from the South Dakota PUC just to give ourselves, the South Dakota PUC, and our stakeholders more time to get comfortable with the project and work through the process,” Hill said.

Fischbach said many landowners in his area and, from what he’s heard from other parts of the state, are not convinced of the value or safety of the project.

“I think Summit should just quit and be over with it,” Fischbach said.

Mack said it’s likely the PUC will grant Summit’s request for an extension. Opponents can use the time to work on eminent domain issues for the state Legislature to address, Mack said.

Geide said he and others will stay focused on concerns and opposition to the pipeline. He wants Minnehaha County to pass a moratorium that would cover CO2 pipelines and give the county time to work on regulations that cover items such as depth and setbacks.