PIERRE, S.D. (KELO) — An evidentiary hearing on whether SCS Carbon Transport can build a pipeline to carry carbon dioxide from ethanol plants in South Dakota and other states to North Dakota won’t be held next spring.

Instead, the South Dakota Public Utilities Commission wants its staff to look at dates in September 2023 and bring an answer back at the commission’s next meeting in January regarding a permit for the portion of the project in South Dakota.

The decision Tuesday was a victory for those landowners and others opposed to the multi-state project.

The commission’s staff had submitted a proposed procedural schedule that called for an evidentiary hearing before the commission that would start on April 24, 2023, and would continue through May 5, 2023, if needed.

“We’re in an indefinite right now, but we need to end that indefinite period,” chair Chris Nelson said.

Said state Treasurer Josh Haeder, who’s sitting on the docket because commissioner Kristie Fiegen has a conflict, “It’s got to be workable for both sides.”

SCS attorney Brett Koenecke of Pierre said he found the proposed schedule acceptable and the South Dakota Association of Rural Water Systems generally agreed to the proposal but asked for a later deadline to submit intervenor testimony.

However, landowners’ attorneys Brian Jorde of Omaha, Nebraska, and Ryan Cwach of Yankton objected to the proposal, claiming that SCS worked behind the scenes to orchestrate it.

Jorde (jor-day) and Cwach wrote in a filing that, if a hearing is to be held, April-May would be “a terrible time for farmers right in the heart of major spring work and preparatory work for planting” and that Jorde has a jury trial in Iowa starting May 2.

Jorde told the commission Tuesday that the South Dakota hearing would take at least 20 days, double what the staff had proposed. Chair Nelson said he was sensitive to Jorde’s scheduling conflict. “We’ve never done that, and I don’t know that this is the time,” Nelson said.

Nelson, a cattle producer, also agreed with the farmers’ springtime conflict. “We’ve got to make sure we get it right,” he said. Haeder said he wasn’t comfortable with the April timeline either.

Regarding the possibility of September dates, Koenecke said he “might” have a trial scheduled that month. Koenecke said Jorde had “taken on too much” with the Iowa trial.

Commissioner Gary Hanson, who had first wanted to accept the staff’s proposal, suggested that staff work on seeing whether September could work.

Said Nelson, “I think we can go down that road.”