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Navigator Hiding CO2 Pipeline Leak Science Because Citizens Are Stupid

The Public Utilities Commission is holding hearings in Fort Pierre this week and likely next on the proposed Navigator Heartland Greenway carbon dioxide pipeline. Testifying yesterday, Navigator VP Elizabeth Burns-Thompson Told Commissioner Gary Hanson that the company will not share vital enviro-engineering information on what might happen if the pipeline ruptures saying we all are just too dumb to understand it:

Hanson also wondered why Navigator wanted its plume model overview kept confidential. Burns-Thompson said the complexity of the data and work was beyond the general public’s ability to understand [Bob Mercer, “Witness: Plume Modeling Too Complex for Public,” KELO-TV, 2023.07.25].

That’s funny: over a year ago, Navigator told Illinois landowner and likely pipeline neighbor Kathy Campbell that they would publish the plume modeling:

In May, Campbell emailed Navigator asking for their plume models, which would illustrate how carbon dioxide would be expected to spread in case of a rupture. Joshua Ward, a project supervisor representing the company, responded that: “The plume modeling has not been completed as of yet. Once the calculations have been finalized, Navigator will be sharing this data with all Stakeholders and Landowners. Navigator’s top priority at this time is landowner safety with the routing of the proposed pipeline through residential areas.”

When the company filed its application with the Illinois Commerce Commission in July, Campbell was frustrated to see that the filing noted the route was based in part on plume modeling. She said she got no response to her email on this note, but a Navigator surveyor “knocked on my door” soon after and told her that the plume models were being adjusted and would be shared.

“I have yet to see any plume models,” she said [Kari Lydersen, “Illinois Residents in Path of CO2 Pipeline Say Company Is Withholding Information,” Energy News Network, 2022.09.29].

Sure, modeling what happens when gas leaks from a pipeline is complex and costly, but complexity is no reason not to tell the public what that modeling shows. Navigator pays Burns-Thompson good money to explain complex issues to the lawmakers she lobbies all the time. Hiding complex data fuels more suspicion and opposition than any misunderstandings that might arise among us yokels from reading the complex data. Put out the data, put out the infographic explainers that Navigator PR make for a living, correct the misinterpretations and misrepresentations that may arise, and trust that interested reporters and citizens can make as much sense of the data as can the Public Utilities Commissioners whom they elect.


  1. sx123 2023-07-26 07:52

    The public somehow sits through high budget superhero movies and figures out the plot (or lack thereof).

    I think we can handle good CGI animations of CO2 plume creeping over the landscape. Add some people grasping their throats and cattle lying on the ground with tongues hanging out for special effect. Call up Industrial Light and Magic if they need help.

  2. Jake Kammerer 2023-07-26 08:01

    Pure and simple: if this isn’t done, there shall be NO pipe laid! If the public are thought to be “too stupid” tto understand the complexities of a “supposed” rupture, they shouldn’t be allowing this private – for profit – entity to condemn their lands. State government (governor, Senators and House members) are far more concerned about a woman making decisions about her body than they are over landowners being trampled into the dirt by this company!

  3. Jeff Barth 2023-07-26 08:22

    Stop these pipelines!!

    The plume of crap from these corporate greenfakers is spreading across the State.

    Nobody should take your property for their own personal gain.

    Wake up South Dakota!
    Stop these pipelines.

  4. P. Aitch 2023-07-26 08:51

    If Navigator won’t release their plume model the PUC should order their own plume model created, charge Navigator for it, and subsequently release the findings to the public. If it takes a couple years to complete the Earth will survive until safety is put first.
    The first word in PUC is public and it’s the commissions duty to protect the public.

  5. Phil 2023-07-26 08:59

    Based on the news these days one must admit, Ms. Burns-Thompson has a point.

  6. WillyNilly 2023-07-26 11:39

    So, if the public and their representatives are unable to possess and understand the information, they can’t consent. Isn’t that how the court looks at criminal acts against minors and those who are impaired and unable to consent? Isn’t that why people should never sign an agreement that they can’t read or don’t understand?

  7. e platypus onion 2023-07-26 13:12

    But magats on the Scotus have no problem allowing the execution of the mentally retarded even though that was allegedly forbidden.

  8. All Mammal 2023-07-26 13:40

    This vast and wide plume of butt splat is a perfect preview of how the people will continue to be treated by this outfit. Can you imagine how hard they will work to keep lives safe when they can’t even get the work done on safety before drilling holes with armed gunmen? This is just a tiny whiff of how hard they will work to inform the public when an incident happens. Don’t be surprised when they keep disasters a secret just like the plume study.

    The government mooching loafs likely never even completed a comprehensive study pertaining to safety. They are showing us how they will use shoddy material, do half-assed installation, have part-time monitoring, and everyone will be out of the office when the rupture happens. Gay-runt-eed.

    This is public endangerment. And it would be nice to see these activist landowners care this much about the fairer sex in our state as they do about this. We know people are dying from pregnancy as we speak. I have yet to notice anybody keel over from a co2 plume….. I’m with ya, but it would be nice to get the same support in return…. guys?

  9. Arlo Blundt 2023-07-26 22:04

    We should be planning to respond to the worst case…what’s likely is that we will be unable to make any response until it’s too late…the damage..and we can not be sure all that entails…has already been done.

  10. John 2023-07-27 08:50

    Glance at the 35,000 foot view of dismantling US climate policy via Project 2025.
    “Called the Mandate for Leadership: The Conservative Promise, it is meant to guide the first 180 days of presidency for an incoming Republican president. Climate experts and advocates criticized planning that would dismantle US climate policy.

    The nearly 1,000-page transition guide was written by more than 350 rightwingers and is full of sweeping recommendations to deconstruct all sectors of the federal government – including environmental policy.”
    The authors include the usual earth haters: Koch, Heritage Foundation, McNamme, Pendley, etc.

  11. Nick Nemec 2023-07-27 12:29

    Why is this hearing being held in Fort Pierre when the proposed pipeline goes within a few miles of Sioux Falls, Aberdeen, Huron or any of a couple dozen smaller South Dakota towns?

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