Carbon pipeline opponents seek federal moratorium on construction

Source: By O. Kay Henderson, Radio Iowa • Posted: Thursday, June 1, 2023

The U.S. Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration is holding a two-day public hearing in Des Moines. Kim Junker, a Grundy County farmer, said the federal agency should at least adopt new safety standards for the operation of pipelines and the response to ruptures.

“Carbon dioxide is heavier than air. It travels like a cloud to low lying areas, depriving oxygen from everything in its path,” she said during a news conference across the street from the hotel where the hearing is taking place. “It’s odorless and colorless. If carbon pipelines are approved in the Midwest, tens of thousands of lives are at risk.”

Three people from Mississippi are in Iowa, testifying before federal officials about a carbon pipeline rupture three years ago near a small town Satartia. Debrae Burns and his family saw the explosion, their car shut off and all three passed out.

“I woke up in the hospital. My symptoms now are headaches, memory loss, having trouble concentrating,” Burns said.

Gerald Briggs is the first responder who rescued Burns and had to take him to an ambulance five miles from the site because gas-powered vehicles don’t work in a cloud of carbon dioxide. “I don’t have a pipeline running through my property, but I’d be standing on the street with you if I did,” Briggs said, to cheers from pipeline opponents gathered on the sidewalk.

Briggs spoke at the news conference organized by opponents of the three pipeline routes proposed in Iowa. Jack Willingham is the emergency management director for the county where the carbon pipeline ruptured. Willingham said crews first responded to an initial report of a “green cloud” in the area.

“We start getting calls from people who can’t breathe, people that need to know what to do in their house — they can’t breathe, they can’t see,” Willingham said. “We have cars that are shutting down.”

The director of regulatory affairs for the Summit Carbon Solutions pipeline said in a written statement that the company will use “state-of-the-art technology” to detect and prevent any potential issues and will “meet or exceed federal safety standards.”