Iowa-Illinois Carbon Dioxide Pipeline Application Withdrawn, Company ‘Remains Committed’

A map submitted to the Illinois Commerce Commission by Wolf Carbon Solutions showing their preferred route for a proposed carbon dioxide pipeline. (Photo taken from ICC testimony.)A map submitted to the Illinois Commerce Commission by Wolf Carbon Solutions showing their preferred route for a proposed carbon dioxide pipeline. (Photo taken from ICC testimony.)

Plans for a pipeline that would have transported carbon dioxide from Iowa for eventual storage in central Illinois are off the table – for now.

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Wolf Carbon Solutions, the company behind the proposed project, filed a motion with state regulators on Monday to withdraw its application, although Wolf’s president said the company intends to file a new application in the future.

“We have made the decision to withdraw our current application, with the intent to refile in early 2024, to address the questions and concerns raised by ICC staff in their recommendation.” Wolf President Dean Ferguson said in a Monday evening statement.

Ferguson also noted that the company “remains committed” to the project and that it will continue going through regulatory processes in Iowa and with the Army Corps of Engineers.

While portions of the pipeline’s plan have yet to be finalized, it was generally proposed to run from two ethanol production facilities owned by Archer Daniels Midland in Iowa and terminate near Decatur, home to ADM’s North American headquarters.

According to the initial plan filed with the ICC, the pipeline would have run southeast from the Iowa border through Rock Island, Henry, Stark, Peoria, Tazewell, Logan, DeWitt and Macon counties.

Wolf’s withdrawal comes a few weeks after staff at the Illinois Commerce Commission, the agency responsible for overseeing such projects, recommended the state reject the project application.

Brett Seagle, an engineer in the ICC’s safety and reliability division, said in written testimony that Wolf had not yet identified a specific enough location for the pipeline, had not finalized its business arrangement with ADM, nor had it filed appropriate paperwork with federal authorities.

“The proposed project is not a benefit to the citizens of Illinois, nor is it in the public interest,” he wrote.

Seagle further urged the commission to consider the “overwhelmingly negative public sentiment” toward the project.

That sentiment is being driven, in part, by the work of activists who have engaged in a months-long campaign against the pipeline.

Joyce Harant, president of advocacy group Citizens Against Predatory Pipelines, said that safety was a top concern for herself and residents along Wolf’s proposed route.

“While they (Wolf) scramble to come up with ways to paint this pipeline as safe, we will continue our work to ensure communities across Illinois are aware of the dangers of this project and are prepared to fight back,” Harant said in a Tuesday news release.

While Harant said that her group is gearing up to oppose the pipeline if Wolf returns and files a new application in the new year, she’s worried about the potential costs of an entirely new proceeding.

“They know they’ve got the financial backing and we’re the regular old citizens,” Harant said in an interview. “We can’t get the legal fees back that we’ve had to pay.”

The proposed project, called the Mt. Simon Hub, was named for the unique geology in central and southern Illinois that facilitates underground carbon dioxide storage.

Carbon capture and storage have become hot button issues. Some view carbon storage as a promising way to mitigate climate harms, while others view it as a dangerous technology that promises more than it can deliver.

Ferguson, in his Monday statement, said that the project would employ “the latest technology and union construction to ensure its safe and efficient operation.” ICC filings on behalf of the company also stressed that the project would meet or exceed federal safety requirements.

Wolf’s efforts are not the only carbon capture project that’s faced opposition in recent months. In October, another carbon dioxide pipeline was entirely canceled following opposition from the public and from regulators.

That project, from Navigator CO2, faced opposition on similar grounds as the Wolf pipeline – and also faced opposition from ICC staff.

Pam Richart is the president of the Coalition to Stop CO2 Pipelines, which supported Harant’s organization as well as a similar group formed to oppose the Navigator pipeline.

Richart said that the regulations surrounding carbon capture are inadequate, given the relatively new nature of the technology and the dangers associated with pipeline ruptures.

In 2020, hundreds were forced to evacuate, and dozens were sent to the hospital after a carbon dioxide pipeline ruptured in Satartia, Mississippi. In response, the federal Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration began a process of reevaluating safety rules for CO2 pipelines.

Those rules are not expected to be finalized until at least October 2024, one reason Richart and others in Illinois are working with lawmakers to institute a moratorium on carbon dioxide pipeline construction until more regulations are finalized.

Richart also expects to spend the spring working with lawmakers and representatives of the carbon capture industry on a “comprehensive” set of regulations for Illinois, although she said that could take more time.

“There’s a lot of gaps between where we are and where industry is,” she said.

Capitol News Illinois is a nonprofit, nonpartisan news service covering state government. It is distributed to hundreds of print and broadcast outlets statewide. It is funded primarily by the Illinois Press Foundation and the Robert R. McCormick Foundation, along with major contributions from the Illinois Broadcasters Foundation and Southern Illinois Editorial Association.

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