Gov. Kim Reynolds’ support for ‘carbon capture solutions’ doesn’t include incentives for pipelines

Source: By Donnelle Eller, Des Moines Register • Posted: Monday, January 17, 2022

Gov. Kim Reynolds’ call in this week’s Condition of the State address to “invest in carbon capture solutions” has some Iowans questioning whether she’s thrown her support behind multibillion-dollar proposals for carbon capture pipelines across the state.

Reynolds spokesman Alex Murphy said Thursday the governor’s budget will include funding for investments in innovative projects in the “agriculture and energy space that ultimately increase participation in carbon markets.”

But in an email to the Des Moines Register, he said the governor “is not advocating directly for incentives for pipeline projects — nor are any of the companies for the proposed pipelines seeking that.”

Murphy didn’t immediately respond Thursday when asked if Reynolds nevertheless supports construction of carbon capture pipelines, which have drawn opposition from some of the property owners and communities along the route.

So far, three companies — Summit Carbon Solutions, Navigator CO2 Venturesand Archer Daniel Midlands — have proposed pipelines in Iowa.

ADM, along with Wolf Carbon Solutions, announced Tuesday a plan to connect a carbon capture pipeline to ADM’s ethanol plants in Cedar Rapids and Clinton. It joins the proposals from the two other companies, which are preparing to seek permits for construction.

The companies propose to capture carbon dioxide emissions from ethanol, fertilizer and other agricultural industrial plants, liquefy the gas under pressure, and transport it through the pipelines to locations in North Dakota and Illinois, where it will be permanently sequestered deep underground.

The companies say the projects would help ethanol remain a viable alternative to petroleum as the nation seeks to cut net greenhouse emissions in half by 2030 to address climate change. Supporters say it also would lower the biofuel’s carbon footprint so it can capture higher prices in California and other states with low-carbon fuel standards.

Iowa is the nation’s largest producer of ethanol, which consumes about half of its nation-leading corn crop.

The proposals have been controversial. One opponent, Jesse Mazour, conservation coordinator for the Sierra Club’s Iowa Chapter, said Wednesday she believes Reynolds is paving the “financial and regulatory path” for approval of the three pipelines.

The governor “is going to make this happen whether Iowans want it or not, whether it’s good for Iowans or not, whether it’s good policy or not,” Mazour said.

MORE: Critics of $4.5 billion carbon capture pipeline say Branstad appointees have conflict, should recuse themselves

Reynolds in her Condition of the State address Tuesday called on the state too “invest in carbon capture solutions” to sustain and build on Iowa’s renewable fuel leadership. Asked to elaborate, Murphy on Thursday pointed to the governor’s budget, which calls for spending $2 million next fiscal year to create a carbon initiative at Iowa State University’s Bioeconomy Institute and $5 million to create a “carbon ignition fund” to provide grants and other incentives for projects that add value to carbon markets.

Reynolds also said Tuesday she will introduce legislation to expand Iowans’ access to higher ethanol and biodiesel blends. Last year, she failed to win legislative approval of a mandate that higher ethanol and biodiesel blends be offered at the state’s gas pumps. Her plan met with resistance from gas station owners and trucking and transportation companies, among others.

Her budget calls for investing $10 million annually for five years for gas stations that upgrade or install new fuel infrastructure that supports higher blends of ethanol and biodiesel.

The proposed pipeline projects have met with skepticism from farmers, landowners and state and county officials, who express concerns about the possible use of eminent domain to acquire land along their routes and the potential impact on farmland.

MORE: Climate warriors: Iowa farmers are joining new initiatives that pay them to battle climate change

Navigator’s Elizabeth Burns-Thompson and Summit’s Justin Kirchhoff both said Wednesday that neither company plans to seek financial incentives from the state.

Although they have different approaches, both projects hinge on tapping federal tax credits that would provide $50 for every ton of carbon sequestered annually. That could generate hundreds of millions of dollars each year for the projects, even if the state doesn’t contribute.

Burns-Thompson, a member of the working group on energy associated with Reynolds’ carbon sequestration task force, said the group called for the state to establish a carbon institute that would provide research and academic support for farmers trying to navigate and tap into new carbon-based markets.

Indigo Ag, Nori and other companies have emerged, offering to pay U.S. farmers for practices that sequester carbon, such as planting cover crops or not tilling their land, with support from industries looking to offset their emissions.

Burns-Thompson, Navigator’s government and public affairs vice president, said the Texas company has briefed the governor’s staff about the pipeline project. She added that she believes Reynolds broadly supports projects that strengthen the renewable fuels industry.

“I believe she has recognized the value of what carbon capture and storage in total can bring to the ethanol industry,” Burns-Thompson said Wednesday.

In her speech Tuesday, Reynolds criticized the Biden administration’s push for electric vehicles and for “actively working to eliminate gas-powered cars.”

“That’s a mistake, especially as China works to lock up the precious metals that make EV batteries,” she said. “Instead, we must continue to embrace an all-of-the-above approach, where we support energy sources that come from right here in Iowa.”

Summit has proposed a $4.5 billion pipeline that would cross 30 Iowa counties. Navigator’s $3 billion project would cross 36 counties in Iowa. Wolf Carbon Solutions declined to comment on how much its project with ADM would cost.

Burns-Thompson said Navigator is reviewing routes in eastern Iowa that it hoped would serve ADM’s ethanol plants in Clinton and Cedar Rapids.

ADM’s plan with Denver-based Wolf calls for a 350-mile pipeline terminating at a sequestration site in Decatur, Illinois.

Donnelle Eller covers agriculture, the environment and energy for the Register. Reach her at deller@registermedia.com or 515-284-8457. 

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