Nearly two full years ago, Summit Carbon Solutions announced plans to partner with seven ethanol plants here in South Dakota. Since that time, there has been an extensive discussion around this project on a wide range of topics including economic benefits, environmental benefits, safety, and more.

Although some opponents have consistently advanced misinformation, there are several facts that are indisputable, and as a result, it is critical that the South Dakota Public Utilities Commission resist unnecessary delays in the regulatory proceedings around this critical investment in our infrastructure.

First, virtually every ethanol plant across South Dakota has formally joined one of the proposed carbon capture projects. Given that, it is natural to ask why they made this decision.

The clear and overwhelming answer is that these projects are absolutely vital to ensuring the long-term competitiveness of the ethanol industry and their ability to purchase more than half of all the corn grown in our state. Or said another way, the failure to join one of these projects or the failure of these projects to move through the regulatory process will likely result in the end of ethanol production in South Dakota and across the United States.

Personally, we don’t take lightly the prospect of eliminating an industry that generates $600 million to South Dakota’s GDP every year, supports more than 5,000 jobs, and directly contributes to strong commodity prices and agricultural land values.

Second, despite what some may say, landowners in South Dakota and across the Midwest are embracing carbon capture projects.

For example, Summit Carbon Solutions has already partnered with 2,350 landowners to sign 3,750 easement agreements or 55% of the proposed route. In South Dakota specifically, the company has also signed easement agreements for 55% of the proposed route in the state and more are signing every day.

The argument that landowners are somehow rejecting these projects is clearly not reflected by the fact that a strong majority have already voluntarily signed easements with the company.

Third, let’s not pretend for a moment that pipelines are somehow new technology.

In South Dakota alone, there are 11,500 miles of pipelines in operation today — that’s the same distance in making two full round trips from Pierre to Anchorage. In the United States, there are 3.3 million miles of pipelines currently in service — that’s the same distance as traveling around the world at the equator 132 times.

These systems have been and continue to be the safest way to transport materials under high pressure and keep our economy moving.

Finally, pipeline systems are extensively and effectively regulated by the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration. And even having said that, here again, Summit Carbon Solutions plans to exceed many of these regulations including burying the pipeline deeper than required and completing X-Rays on 100% of the pipeline welds instead of just the 10% that is required.

With all these factors in mind, it is reasonable and appropriate that carbon capture, transportation, and storage projects are treated the same way as other similar infrastructure investments. In particular, that would mean the regulatory process follows the same timeline as other pipeline projects and a hearing is scheduled for Summit Carbon Solutions in the near term that will consider all the important topics related to public benefits, safety, routing and more.

Thousands of landowners, particularly corn growers who rely on a strong ethanol industry, have embraced this project and want to see it move forward. Dozens of ethanol plants have similarly joined seeing this as an essential step in ensuring the long-term viability of the industry.

We can and should have a robust debate around infrastructure projects. However, we simply cannot afford unnecessary delays in the regulatory process that is the primary and best venue to have this debate. The notion that we would prioritize a lawyer’s schedule over the interests of South Dakota landowners is particularly galling.

We respectfully call on the South Dakota PUC to schedule a permitting hearing for Summit Carbon Solutions this spring, along the same timeline as other similar pipeline projects.

Signers:

Ron Alverson, Board Member and a Founder of Dakota Ethanol in Wentworth, South Dakota.

Walt Wendland, President and CEO of Ringneck Energy in Onida, South Dakota.

Eric Baukol, CEO of Redfield Energy in Redfield, South Dakota.

Scott Mundt, CEO of Dakota Ethanol in Wentworth, South Dakota.

Jim Seurer, CEO of Glacial Lakes Energy in Watertown, Aberdeen, Mina, and Huron, (all operating in South Dakota).