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Eminent Domain is the Latest Front in Carbon Pipeline Fight
South Dakota Ag Connection - 02/26/2024

Some of the most contentious, emotionally charged debates during the 2024 South Dakota legislative session have been about property rights and whether a private company can use eminent domain to force a carbon dioxide pipeline onto land against the owner's will.

The heated discussions are driven by a proposal from Summit Carbon Solutions to run 470 miles of a 1,900-mile underground pipeline across eastern South Dakota. The pipe would carry liquified carbon dioxide gas from regional ethanol plants to North Dakota, where it would be stored deep underground and kept out of the atmosphere.

In all, lawmakers are weighing 10 bills related to the pipeline and eminent domain, which requires landowners to be paid for the use of their land but gives them little legal recourse to stop it.

"The core of the issue is about taking people’s lands, and it's starting to infringe on the American way," Joy Hohn, whose family farm west of Sioux Falls near Hartford is on the proposed pipeline route, told News Watch.

"Prior to this, our eminent domain laws were for projects that were for the good of the people and that benefit the public. But when you have an out-of-state, foreign-backed company using the threat of eminent domain in their dealings, it's not good and people are really fired up about that."

Kirk Yackley, who farms northeast of Pierre near Onida, said he has heard of landowners being bullied but said he had a good experience with Summit representatives.

Yackley is one of the roughly 3 out of 4 South Dakota landowners along the route who have signed voluntary easements allowing the CO2 pipeline on their land, according to Summit. In his case, the line would cut across about a half-mile of his family's 9,000-acre farm.

“They were very professional and respectful,” he said of Summit representatives.

Summit plans to refile for pipeline permit

The state Public Utilities Commission in September rejected Summit's application after regulators said there were too many conflicts between the proposed route and county guidelines for setbacks between utility projects and existing structures.

Summit officials have said they will refile their permit request once they iron out differences and obtain the voluntary easements needed to site the project. They're also supporting a change in state law to eliminate the ability of counties to regulate pipeline locations.

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