North Dakota Republicans tackle eminent domain issue for carbon pipelines

Fossil fuels are addressed in another resolution

North Dakota Monitor  BY:  – MARCH 26, 2024

 A pipeline opponent attends a Dec. 18, 2023, hearing in Bismarck before the North Dakota Supreme Court. (Kyle Martin/For the North Dakota Monitor)

The North Dakota Republican Party will vote on a resolution that backs the rights of landowners and objects to using eminent domain for carbon capture pipelines.

The resolution was one of several approved by a committee this month and targets a project that Gov. Doug Burgum and some Republicans have supported – the carbon capture and storage project from Summit Carbon Solutions.

While the project was not named in the resolution, it is the only large-scale carbon capture project in the state at the permitting stage, with the North Dakota Public Service Commission set to start a rehearing for the pipeline next month.

Sen. Jeff Magrum, R-Hazelton. (Photo provided by the North Dakota Legislative Assembly)

State Sen. Jeff Magrum, R-Hazelton, said he contributed much of the wording on the resolution that passed the Resolutions Committee. It was then approved by the State Committee.

He said he looks forward to a debate on the resolution at the Republican state convention April 5-6.

“Is our party still the party of property rights?” Magrum said in an interview.

While there may not be a formal debate on the 15 resolutions up for consideration, “the debate will take place in the hallways,” said Rep. Karen Karls, R-Bismarck.

The resolution says “Corporations within the energy sector are capitalizing on the false premise of a looming climate apocalypse by introducing CCS (carbon capture and storage) projects into North Dakota” and “eminent domain is being considered to acquire the necessary land for the pipeline.”

Eminent domain is a legal process that can force landowners to provide right-of-way for a project that is deemed to have public benefit. Landowners would be compensated if a court rules eminent domain can be used.

Summit says it has obtained about 80% of the right-of-way it needs in North Dakota through voluntary easements and continues to negotiate with landowners. But some landowners have refused to sign an easement agreement.

“The affected landowners and communities have expressed strong opposition to the use of eminent domain, arguing that it unjustly benefits a private entity at the expense of their property rights and local autonomy,” the resolution says.

It also cites the Fifth Amendment on protecting property rights.

Karls was not a supporter of the resolution. “It is such a contentious issue,” she said, but she is concerned about the effect that opposition could have on future pipeline projects.

Summit proposes to build a pipeline connecting more than 50 ethanol plants to underground storage sites in North Dakota. It would have about 353 miles of pipeline in North Dakota.

Summit would benefit from federal tax credits promoting the underground storage of greenhouse gasses as a way to address climate change.

Other states on the route are Iowa, Minnesota, Nebraska and South Dakota.

Summit’s pipeline route specifies that carbon dioxide would be for underground storage. But Summit officials also have said that the pipeline would be a common carrier, meaning another company could pay to use the pipeline to transport CO2.

One potential use for carbon dioxide is in the oil industry, extending the productivity of wells through a process called enhanced oil recovery.

Burgum has been a vocal supporter of the oil and gas industry and the Summit pipeline project though he has said easements should be acquired voluntarily.

He appeared with Summit officials in Casselton at Tharaldson Ethanol, the only North Dakota plant on the Summit route, praising an investment from oil developer Continental Resources into the Summit project.

The governor is part of North Dakota’s three-person Industrial Commission that recently approved state funds to promote carbon capture, utilization and storage.

The resolution takes aim at that, too.

It says the party opposes the use of state funds to educate the public on the benefits of carbon capture that are contrary to the interests of private property owners. Furthermore, the party “opposes the fascism of mutually beneficial partnerships between government and private energy corporations created under the pretext of climate change.” Read more