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Carbon pipeline panelist says to 'rethink' easement compensation

Panelists from Minnesota and Iowa participated in a discussion of carbon capture pipelines at the Agweek Farm Show in Rochester, Minnesota.

Jess Mazour, Dan Wahl and Peg Furshong in a pipeline panel discussion.
Jess Mazour, left, of the Sierra Club in Iowa speaks about carbon pipelines on Tuesday, March 8, in Rochester, Minnesota. She was joined on a pipeline panel discussion at the Agweek Farm Show by Iowa farmer Dan Wahl, center, and Peg Furshong of Renville County, Minnesota.
Trevor Peterson / Agweek
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ROCHESTER, Minn. — Landowners faced with the prospect of a carbon capture pipeline running through their property should be asking for something more than a one-time payment and a few years of compensation for crop yield loss.

That was the opinion of one panelist in a discussion of carbon pipeline projects at the Agweek Farm Show on Tuesday, March 8, in Rochester. The Agweek Farm Show continues Wednesday, March 9, at Graham Arena at the Olmsted County Fairgrounds in Rochester.

"Maybe it's time for a different kind of negotiation," said Peg Furshong, who owns property near the path of a proposed pipeline in Renville County.

The company behind that project, Summit Carbon Solutions, is seeking voluntary easements for property access but also has cited the need for eminent domain to force landowners to comply, saying that the project provides a public service.

Furshong said a true public service would be ongoing payments from a pipeline company to support local governments, schools and hospitals.

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"They can afford a different pay structure," Furshong said of Summit, which has a $4.5 billion project planned to capture carbon from 31 ethanol plants in five states and store it underground in North Dakota.

Furshong was joined on the panel by Jess Mazour of the Sierra Club in Iowa, and Dan Wahl, who farms land in northwest Iowa that Summit has targeted for its pipeline.

Wahl noted that he already has entered into a conservation easement with the U.S. Department of Agriculture and it would be his responsibility to make sure the property would be in a condition to fulfill that agreement after a pipeline is built.

"Find out what you're liable for before you sign any easements," Wahl told those listening to the panel.

Wahl said the threat of using eminent domain "lit a fire" that has had him working with other landowners near the ethanol plant at Superior, Iowa, in opposition to the pipeline. He said of 17 landowners just south of the Minnesota state line, 15 are not signing voluntary easements and just two are, even though many of them sell corn to the ethanol plant.

"I'm encouraging everyone to take a step back before you sign anything when you get approached," he said.

Ethanol plants stand to benefit from the pipeline by being able to sell fuel for a premium price in low-carbon fuel markets such as California.

But Wahl said there is no guarantee of more money for corn growers and few cents a bushel isn't worth it.

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He said he turned down the opportunity to have a wind turbine placed on his property that would have paid him $10,000 a year. A wind turbine would have generated electricity, which has a true public benefit, and he said he still had the choice to say "no."

He said the Summit project is "wrong on all levels."

Summit, which is leading the largest of three carbon pipeline projects that center on Iowa, was invited to participate in the panel but did not send a representative. Summit is holding meetings with landowners in Iowa this week.

A map of the Summit Carbon Solutions pipeline project

Mazour has been leading the Sierra Club's efforts in Iowa to stop the pipelines, an effort she say has united Republicans and Democrats.

"You can't take our land so you can make more money," Mazour said.

She said ethanol was meant to be a "bridge fuel" until more climate friendly electric cars take over the roads.

Banking on California and other low-carbon markets is foolish, she said.

"Those states are electrifying their fleets the fastest," she said.

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"Is the future of ag ethanol and pipelines?" she asked.

Mazour and Furshong also questioned the safety of liquid carbon dioxide pipelines, citing a pipeline rupture in Mississippi that sickened dozens of people.

Furshong said carbon dioxide and pipelines have been around for a long time "but never this kind of length under this kind of pressure," she said.

Reach Jeff Beach at jbeach@agweek.com or call 701-451-5651 (work) or 859-420-1177.
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