May 23, 2023 - News

CO2 pipeline opponents seek federal moratorium

A pipe that's part of the Petra Nova carbon capture project in Thompsons, Texas. Photo: Luke Sharrett/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Federal regulators are hosting a two-day conference about carbon dioxide (CO2) pipeline safety at the downtown DSM Marriott next week.

Why it matters: Opposition to pipeline projects that would transport CO2 across Iowa and much of the Midwest has been building for months.

  • Critics plan to use the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA) meeting to lobby for a federal moratorium on the proposals.

Catch up fast:Under plans being pursued by multiple companies, thousands of miles of underground pipelines would transport CO2 from ethanol and fertilizer plants across Iowa, Nebraska, Minnesota, Illinois and the Dakotas to sequestration sites in Illinois or North Dakota.

  • Of the three proposed pipeline projects through Iowa, one from Navigator CO2 Ventures would cut through the northeast corner of Polk County.

Between the lines: Increases in federal tax incentives intended to help reduce harmful environmental emissions are prompting the country's pipeline rush, Time reports.

Driving the news: Next week's meeting is a follow-up to the additional safety measures put in place after a 2020 CO2 pipeline rupture in Mississippi.

  • It released more than 31,000 barrels of CO2, resulting in the evacuation of hundreds of people and injuries to more than 40 people.

State of play: Dozens of bills that would've added regulations or limited the use of eminent domain for CO2 pipelines failed this year in the six states where the projects are proposed.

  • Groups like Iowa Citizens for Community Improvement (CCI) are now asking PHMSA — the primary federal agency that oversees safety — to halt future projects until further regulations are created.

What they're saying: Pipelines have for decades been the safest way to transport CO2 and the company welcomes next week's discussions, a spokesperson for Navigator CO2 tells Axios.

  • Construction for Navigator's project could begin in late 2024, pending an application and hearing process through the Iowa Utilities Board.

The other side: Some rural Iowa towns rely on volunteer fire departments and may not be prepared to deal with pipeline ruptures, Susan Stoefen, a CCI member from rural Scott County, said in a press statement.

  • The pipeline companies "are treating our communities like guinea pigs," she said.

Of note: Polk County Supervisors have for months considered and may still act to oppose the project, county administrator John Norris tells Axios.

Go: The PHMSA meeting starts May 31 at 8am.


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