PIERRE, S.D. (KELO) — The South Dakota Public Utilities Commission has agreed with a request from SCS Carbon Transport (Summit Carbon Solutions) for the commission to give itself more time to reach a permitting decision.

That’s because SCS Carbon is continuing to work on possible changes to the proposed route of the carbon-dioxide pipeline through eastern South Dakota.

The commission voted 3-0 Wednesday to extend the time period indefinitely. State law requires the commission to reach a decision within one year of the initial application for a project such as the pipeline, unless the applicants request an extension.

SCS Carbon filed its application to the commission February 7, 2022. Brett Koenecke, an attorney representing SCS Carbon, recently requested extending the deadline to June 15, 2023.

Commission chairman Chris Nelson said the extension instead should be “for an indefinite period of time.” Nelson said he wanted the commission to have flexibility and he expects SCS to file “a complete package.”

Commissioner Gary Hanson said he was “inclined” to pursue the June 15, 2023, date. “I just feel we need a date-certain for all parties involved,” Hanson said.

Nelson explained his thought process. He said the final changes could be minor, major or perhaps not at all.

“We just don’t know those things,” Nelson said “But if the changes are major, I’m not sure that (June 15, 2023) timeline is going to work.

The commission will set a scheduling order after the proposed route changes are clear, Nelson said.

The commission also unanimously denied a motion from intervenors who are landowners. They wanted the commission to deny the application or return it to SCS Carbon.

One of the landowners’ attorneys, Brian Jorde of Omaha, Nebraska, cited a commission rule that requires SCS immediately notify the commission of changes regarding a specific site. He said the route changes remain unknown. “We have no idea of what we’re actually dealing with,” Jorde told the commission.

Jorde also noted that SCS Carbon still hadn’t notified some landowners along the proposed route.

Koenecke argued that SCS should be able to change and adapt the route as it learns more through the permitting process. “The application is complete. The process should go on,” he said.

The project would collect carbon dioxide from ethanol plants spread throughout South Dakota and transport it to a burial site in North Dakota. Attorney Bill Van Camp of Pierre, speaking for seven of the plants, told the commission that carbon sequestration is “the future” for ethanol production.

Chairman Nelson asked the commission to reject the denial/return request. He agreed the package wasn’t as complete as he’d like. But, he added, “I also don’t think we’re at a fatal juncture where we need to dismiss it at this point.”

Nelson said that decision could be made later when the revised package is complete. “Let’s move forward and see what we get filed from the applicant down the road,” he said.