The Science and Environmental Health Network notes that Summit Carbon Solutions and other corporate interests pushing carbon dioxide pipelines are talking out of both sides of their mouths on pipeline safety regulation. On the one hand, the CO2 pipeliners are telling local officials that only the federal government, through the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration, has the authority to regulate their proposed projects. In Iowa, Summit Carbon Solutions is using just that premise to overturn county safety ordinances in court. Yet current federal regulations do not adequately cover the proposed CO2 sequestration pipelines, and the pipeliners are rushing to grab land and build their pipelines before the PHMSA can complete its research and issue new regulations:
PHMSA itself acknowledges that CO2 pipelines are underregulated, and the agency currently lacks the technical knowledge required to inform minimum safety standards.
…The Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration conducted an investigation following the Satartia disaster. Based on that probe, PHMSA announced new rulemaking on CO2 pipeline standards, including emergency preparedness and response. PHMSA also solicited scientific research on CO2 pipeline safety to inform the new rulemaking.
Regulatory gaps include no current requirement to add an odorant to transported CO2. Since carbon dioxide is odorless and colorless, spills are harder to observe and therefore avoid. The requirement of an odorant would help alert the public of a CO2 pipeline rupture.
Results from the PHMSA funded research will not become available until 2024 at the earliest. The CO2 pipeline knowledge gaps must be resolved before reasonable and thorough rulemaking can begin. In the absence of sufficient knowledge and safety regulations, it is reckless to proceed with state permitting of CO2 pipelines.
The incongruity is that the carbon capture and storage corporations are telling the states that only PHMSA can regulate CO2 pipelines. PHMSA has said it needs new regulations, but the corporations and states aren’t waiting for the regulations to be promulgated [Carolyn Raffensperger and Sheri Deal-Tyne, “Corporations Exploit CO2 Pipeline Regulatory Gaps in Tax Credit Gold Rush,” Bleeding Heartland, 2022.12.02].
Not that South Dakota landowners threatened by these underregulated pipelines actually care: last month, they had the chance to elect a Public Utilities Commissioner who promised to protect landowners from CO2 pipelines. Instead, they rejected Jeff Barth and reëlected Chris Nelson, who promised not to let the PUC stand in the pipeliners’ way, by the largest margin of any statewide lawmaker headed to Pierre. Counties along proposed CO2 pipeline routes all gave Nelson the win, with some counties where pipeline opponents have been highly vocal, like Spink and McPherson, gave Nelson percentages higher than his statewide take.