116 3rd St SE
Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52401
Summit, Navigator, and Wolfe investors are currently seeking permits to trench in thousands of miles of CO2 pipelines across Iowa. Their main selling point is the need to keep the state’s ethanol competitive with California’s strict carbon emission standards. However, regulators in the Golden State recently voted to ban the sale new gasoline-powered vehicles by 2035. When demand for ethanol falls with the transition to EVs, the multi-billion-dollar C02 pipelines will become obsolete. This, alone, should make Iowa pause the permitting process.
However, the dwindling California market isn’t the only reason to suspend CO2 pipeline permits. Many important questions remain unanswered. Is Iowa’s power grid ready for the huge increase in demand? Have CO2 pipeline companies documented pipeline safety? Are regulations in place to oversee the pipelines? Simply put, the answer to all of the above is, “No!”
Five Iowa counties, including Clay, Crawford, Hancock, Hardin, and Sioux, are slated to have pumping stations. Purportedly, the installed horsepower for motors and pumps at each station will range between 4,000 and 6,000 hp. In addition, the stations will need electric pumps, lights, and heating in buildings.
The pumping stations must purchase electricity locally. Do our rural electric companies have infrastructure in place to handle the increase in demand? If not, how is this problem being addressed? What are the long-term implications for existing customers?
Pumping stations will have battery backup to maintain communications equipment, the control center, and lighting in the event of a power outage. However, backup power is not designed to keep the pumps operating. What happens to highly pressurized liquid CO2 in the pipeline during an extended power outage?
Liquid CO2 is labeled “toxic and hazardous” by OSHA. Yet, the pipeline companies continue to claim the CO2 in the lines is safe, even “harmless.” Even so, Summit refuses to provide the IUB with documentation of product safety - a risk assessment, research data showing plume modeling and emergency response plans.
The Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA) recently completed a two-year-long investigation into the CO2 pipeline failure in Sartatia, Miss., in 2020. PHMSA found the rupture happened when an underground CO2 pipeline shifted and broke This released a toxic C02 cloud that caused the town’s evacuation, 50 hospitalizations, and several life-long injuries.
In the aftermath of Sartatia, PHMSA plans to write new regulations for the design, construction, and operation of CO2 pipelines. All hazardous CO2 pipeline permit requests should be suspended until PHMSA has the new safety regulations in place. Before being granted a permit, every company must be required to submit documentation of compliance.
California’s new EV standard is but one of several reasons to stop the “full steam ahead” approach to CO2 pipeline development. Too many questions remain unanswered regarding the power grid, product safety, and regulatory authority. It’s time to press ‘pause’ on granting permits for these nebulous projects.
Bonnie Ewoldt is a Crawford County property owner who lives in Milford.