PSC considers making CO2 dispersion documents public

Published: Jun. 27, 2023 at 7:39 PM CDT
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BISMARCK, N.D. (KFYR) - Your News Leader has been telling you for months about the Summit Carbon Solutions project that would carry carbon dioxide from five states and store it underground in North Dakota. Tuesday, the Public Service Commission considered declassifying certain documents related to that case.

If a carbon dioxide pipeline were to burst, do you know how the CO2 inside would disperse? Would it engulf a mile radius on the ground? Five miles? How long would it take for it to clear up? Most people don’t know. That’s because that information is private, but it soon could be public knowledge.

For those who have fought the carbon dioxide pipeline near Bismarck, it can basically be boiled down to one thing.

”I’m most concerned about the safety and the concern of the pipeline running through, as it’s been discussed many times before, the high concentration areas where Bismarck is growing,” said Karl Rakow, who lives north of Bismarck.

Those opposed to the pipeline say publishing the plume study is a matter of risk avoidance, risk management and emergency response.

”In order to determine risk, you have to know the probability of the event, versus the consequence to the public. And at this point, as members of the landowner interveners, we don’t really know either of these variables, except very generally,” said Steven Leibel, intervenor for landowners.

But those hoping to build the pipeline say that information should stay private so Summit can better coordinate emergency responses in the event of a leak.

”Dispersion modeling information is used for other purposes as well, including modeling of our emergency response plans and public awareness plans. Specifically, by understanding where CO2 may go, in the event of an incident, Summit can allocate prevention and mitigation resources to areas that are more sensitive,” said James Curry, who represents Summit Carbon Solutions.

Landowners are asking for the project to be delayed until new federal pipeline regulations are released from the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA).

”If PHMSA has exclusive jurisdiction, shouldn’t this commission wait until PHMSA weighs in on the new regulations that are planned are in the works for 2024 before it addresses their application overall?” said Randall Bakke, intervenor for the landowners.

But those hoping to build the pipeline say that’s unrealistic.

”If you did that, no pipeline would ever be built or operated in the United States. PHMSA is constantly in the process of updating and changing its rules. It has had CO2 pipeline regulations in place with a good safety record since 1991,” said Curry.

If the PSC sides with landowners on that point, it could delay the project by years.

The commissioners didn’t make a decision on whether to make the documents public Tuesday.