Minnehaha County pens letter to S.D. Public Utilities Commission urging caution on carbon dioxide pipelines

This is the second such statement the county commission has sent regarding the pipeline plans.

Heartland Greenway pipeline map.PNG
The proposed route of the Heartland Greenway CO₂ pipeline through Minnehaha County.
Contributed / Navigator CO₂

SIOUX FALLS — The Minnehaha County Commission wants the South Dakota Public Utilities Commission to consider several safety measures before approving plans for a carbon dioxide pipeline from North of Sioux Falls to the Iowa border.

The commission this week approved sending a letter to the PUC concerning the Heartland Greenway pipeline, backed by Navigator CO2 Ventures. The Omaha-based company is hoping to cross a 28-mile stretch of eastern Minnehaha County.

The vote was 4-1, with Commissioner Jen Bleyenberg opposed. Bleyenberg said she favored stronger language.

The main thrust of the county letter was to address safety concerns and to have the pipeline company work more closely with the county’s first responders. The commission also addressed long-term issues, such as bonding and to make it clear that landowners should be protected if any damage would occur during its operation or if the pipeline ceased operations.

Legislators representing areas in the shadow of proposed pipelines are taking aim at eminent domain.

The commissioners “remain concerned about carbon dioxide transmission pipelines,” the letter states.


The Navigator pipeline is one of two proposed in the state. The second pipeline proposed by Summit Carbon Solutions would run through the western part of Minnehaha County on its way to North Dakota where it would be stored in underground sites.

An earlier letter was sent to the PUC by the county board concerning the Summit pipeline.

Hearings by the PUC on the Navigator pipeline are scheduled for July with a decision on a permit set by law to be made by Sept. 27.

Hearings on the Summit pipeline are scheduled for September with a decision to be made by Nov. 15.

Bleyenberg said her first impression was that the letter was “mild.”

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The Minnehaha County Commission, from right, Gerald Beninga, Joe Kippley, Jean Bender, Jen Bleyenberg and Dean Karsky.
Contributed / Minnehaha County

She also had concerns that the issue of eminent domain wasn’t addressed in the letter. Numerous residents have appeared before the county board, and did again this past week, with concerns about their property and safety issues.

Also, Lincoln County commissioners last month urged via a resolution that the pipeline companies should avoid the use of eminent domain for land acquisitions and instead negotiate with landowners. The state Legislature, however, in their session this winter turned down bills that would have placed restrictions on eminent domain for this new type of pipeline.

The pipelines would carry carbon emitted in the ethanol production process from plants across the region.


The pipeline plans have divided many landowners, farmers and ranchers across the state. The reason is the pipelines would help the farmer-supported ethanol industry by lowering their carbon output allowing ethanol to be sold in more markets.

County Commissioner Joe Kippley, who drafted the letter, said he “feels bad for landowners who are caught in the middle of a lot of jurisdictions,” concerning eminent domain and safety issues.

The resolution is simply an expression of the commission’s opinion, and holds no weight in actual eminent domain procedures.

He said the Legislature had the responsibility for eminent domain and the federal government deals with most safety issues.

“We don’t have a vote on eminent domain issues,” he said.

Commissioner Gerald Beninga said the county planning and zoning board is planning to address some issues concerning the pipelines in coming months before the PUC takes up the permit issues. The county may consider setback and safety issues.

Before and after the vote on the letter, county residents continued to address the commissioners about the pipelines as they have over the past few months.

Gary Meyer of Hartford said the letter “in no way represents landowners.”

“You’ve got to take the cards that are dealt to you," the Senate's top lawmaker said about the burgeoning carbon economy.

He said it offered nothing about eminent domain and failed to note carbon dioxide carried in the pipeline has “no value to the public.”


Jackie Buysse of Valley Springs told the commissioners that the county board association handbook states they are “the form of government closest to the people and that counties offer a unique perspective that makes them critical players in decisions affecting their citizens.”

She said all of the speakers before the board in the past several months should be listened to when making decisions on the pipeline..

“Why are rural people less important and their land and lives expendable for the sake of this pipeline?” she asked.

Buysse said she believes the pipeline will “disrupt their land, lives and livelihoods.”

Kipley said he met with volunteer fire chiefs from around the county in Baltic in the past few weeks and that they raised concerns about having the best equipment to deal with any carbon dioxide incident. He said they would be asking the companies to help with any equipment or resources the departments may need.

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