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Charles City Council hears presentation on Summit Carbon pipeline

By Bob Steenson, [email protected]

The Charles City Council experienced something Wednesday evening that many other government bodies across the state have already witnessed since summer 2021 – some several times – a presentation on a proposed carbon dioxide capture and sequestration pipeline project.

Representatives of Summit Carbon Solutions made the presentation to the council at a workship meeting Wednesday evening about the project that is proposed to pass just south of the city for the most part, but through the Avenue of the Saints Development Park which is in city limits at the northeast corner of the intersection of South Grand Avenue and the Avenue of the Saints.

Council members listened intently and had many questions of the Summit representatives, but in the end Mayor Dean Andrews asked, “After this discussion, what’s next? Is this for information only?”

Council member DeLaine Freeseman said he wanted to hear from the city attorney, Brad Sloter, if the council had any options regarding the pipeline.

“Is this something we can even get involved in, and what would that action be?” he asked.

Council member Pat Lumley said he had many questions about the economic impact and safety – questions that he didn’t see addressed in the information that was passed out at the meeting.

The council agreed to have Sloter give an overview of the council’s potential involvement or action at a future meeting.

During the presentation, Summit Carbon Project Manager Kylie Lange said 32 ethanol plants in five states have signed on to the Summit pipeline project to capture carbon dioxide, pressurize it into a liquid, then transport it in underground pipelines to North Dakota where it would be injected thousands of feet underground for permanent sequestration.

Sequestering CO2 would allow ethanol plants to lower their carbon intensity score, letting them sell ethanol at a premium in states like California and others with low carbon fuel mandates, as well as counties like Canada and others with low carbon requirements. Only about 7% of the ethanol produced in Iowa is used in Iowa, Lange said.

Ethanol plants would also share in $85 per ton federal tax credits for every ton of carbon sequestered. Summit estimates it can sequester 12 million tons of carbon per year or more – potentially $1 billion a year in carbon tax credits.

Ethanol companies have said lowering their carbon intensity score is vital to their continued economic viability. More than half – 58% – of the corn crop in Iowa goes to making ethanol. That figure is about 40% nationally.

Valero Renewables, the Floyd County ethanol plant, is part of the Navigator CO2 Ventures project, Lange said, but the ethanol plants in Cerro Gordo County and Chickasaw County are both part of the Summit project.

Lange said the Summit route in Floyd County follows an existing natural gas pipeline easement corridor except in a few places. It would follow a natural gas pipeline easement where it is proposing to go through the Avenue of the Saints Development Park, she said.

Mayor Andrews said Summit offered to change the route through the development park to be near the southern boundary, but the Charles City Area Development Board decided it would make more sense to place it in the natural gas pipeline easement, since there are already two pipelines in that location.

Lange said Summit had also agreed to use thicker-walled pipe and bury it deeper through the development park so that the land over the pipeline could be paved for parking – the same use the existing natural gas pipelines allow, she said.

Lange talked about the safety precautions the company planned, including inspecting every weld instead of the 10% of welds required by federal regulations, burying the pipeline at least 4 feet instead of the required 3 feet, using more automatic shutoff valves than are required – including four valves in 25 miles through Floyd County.

Included in the council packet were several pieces of information raising concerns about CO2 pipelines that had been submitted by George Cummins, a landowner affected by the pipelines.

One was a sheet on CO2 pipeline safety by the the Iowa Chapter of Physicians for Social Responsibility that talked about the dangers of a CO2 rupture and what had happened at a CO2 pipeline rupture in 2020 in Satartia, Mississippi, where several dozen people were sickened by the spread of the gas.

The spreading CO2 gas caused people to have convulsions, become disoriented and lose consciousness. Motor vehicles were not able to operate to drive out of the spreading gas because the CO2 displaced oxygen needed for vehicle engines to run. Although there were no fatalities, some people say they continue to deal with the effects of exposure to the gas,

Another was an information paper from PHMSA (the federal Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration, a division of the U.S. Department of Transportation) regarding efforts to strengthen its safety oversight of carbon dioxide pipelines, partially as a response to the Satartia rupture..

Another was a reprint of a lengthy article from Huffpost online about the Sartartia event and its impact on that small community.

Also at the City Council workshop meeting Wednesday, the council members:

  • Approved paying $42,900 to $47,400 to replace a traffic signal on the corner of Gilbert Street and Main Street that was struck by a vehicle. City Administrator Steve Diers said the identify of the vehicle driver was not known. The signal light pole will be placed an additional 5 feet away from the street to help avoid it being struck in the future. The potential price difference involves whether existing conduit can be used to run wiring under the street or if a hole for a new conduit has to be bored under the street from the signal light to the signal cabinet.
  • Continued discussion of the fiscal year 2023-24 city budget which will go into effect July 1. The council discussed payment requests by outside groups, specifically from the Charles City Arts Center, the Floyd County Museum and Crisis Intervention. Council members agreed that Crisis Intervention, which requested $2,000, was the top priority, likening it as similar to public safety, while the city already supported the Arts Center in various other ways such as building repairs, and the museum could fund the activity is asked for money for through other means, such as funding from the hotel and motel tax. Budget discussions continued Thursday evening.


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