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PUC Nelson Warns Navigator: No Map, No Permit

Public Utilities Commissioner Chris Nelson was dodgy during last year’s election about whether he would do anything to protect landowners from the eminent domain encroachment of carbon dioxide pipelines. But as the PUC’s hearing on the Navigator CO2 pipeline wrapped up late yesterday, Commissioner Nelson signaled the company’s refusal to share details about where exactly its pipeline will run could lose his vote:

Commissioner Chris Nelson asked whether Navigator could provide a map so that the public could understand the potential danger from a pipeline rupture. [Project VP Monica] Howard said she couldn’t do that.

That, Nelson replied, may mean the company and the commission will find they are at “an impasse” [Bob Mercer, “A Navigator Objection Ticks Off Landowners’ Lawyer,” KELO-TV, 2023.08.08].

Mercer reports that the PUC plans to vote on Navigator’s permit application on September 6. Navigator thus has four weeks to get Commissioner Nelson the map on which it sounds like his approval depends.


  1. John 2023-08-09

    It requires either massive gall or bribes to even begin considering a project without a mere map, without a study of the primary, secondary, and tertiary effects of such a project. Nelson earned a momentary golf clap. The PUC earned a thunder clap on the backs of their heads.
    How far has the modern republican elite fallen from the clarifying days of evil Ronnie Raygun’s, ‘trust, but verify’.

  2. Donald Pay 2023-08-09

    John is correct. Maps, alternative routes, detailed plans for construction and operation, emergency plans, and environmental impact statement, etc., need to be submitted prior to any final approval. It also helps the process to have public hearings where citizen concerns are addressed and public input is valued. State agencies have the power to order all this before they make a final determination on any project. A map of the proposed route and alternatives should be the first order of business. Projects that do not do the basics are the ones that end up failing.

  3. Caroline 2023-08-09

    We don’t need no stinkin map. Just trust us.

  4. Bonnie B Fairbank 2023-08-09

    I would also demand excellent satellite imagery at the same scale of the maps.

  5. Richard Schriever 2023-08-09

    A map should also provide population densities within 50 miles of any – ANY – proposed route.

  6. Nick Nemec 2023-08-10

    Good for him.

  7. blueboy 2023-08-10

    Info request: What is present at the destination of these pipelines that couldn’t be built (probably cheaper) at the source of the CO2?

  8. Nick Nemec 2023-08-10

    blueboy, the pipeline management say the correct deep underground geological structure to successfully contain the CO2 doesn’t exist in South Dakota.

  9. Korey Jackson 2023-08-10

    There may be some misunderstanding by some commenters.

    Detailed maps of Navigator’s CO2 pipeline proposed route are, and have been, available to the PUC and the public.

    My understanding: The impasse Commissioner Nelson and fellow Commissioners were making is about the designation of a specific Navigator exhibit as Protected Critical Infrastructure Information (PCII), which incorporates proprietary and sensitive information. While the Commissioners and PUC staff do have access to that information, as well as others participating in the closed sessions of the recent PUC hearings, their concern is that information is not also broadly releasable to the general public.

    There is a legitimate tension (and difference of opinion) between full public transparency and PCII.

    In particular, the so-called plume analysis risk studies that Navigator conducted, using software such as Areal Locations of Hazardous Atmospheres (ALOHA®), is apparently, for the time being, designated as protected information. Examples may include input parameters such as assumptions of pipeline pressures, mechanism of release, and atmospheric conditions.

    Considering that U.S. ethanol plants release, on average, 14 to 17 tons of CO2 per hour, engineers and atmospheric M&S practitioners might run their own case study simulations at specific route locations, using ALOHA and similar atmospheric dispersion software, given available knowledge of pipeline diameter, and number of ethanol plants upstream. In my experience with other types of hazardous atmospheric releases and dispertion, the simulation’s output should have additional context and clarification provided by appropriate subject matter experts.

  10. Algebra 2023-08-12

    What is present at the destination of these pipeline routes is unrecovered oil. The compressed CO2 will be injected into the oil fields for “enhanced oil recovery.” (Don’t call it fracking.) The tax credit for CO2 used for enhanced oil recovery is lower than that for permanent sequestration but still makes it profitable. I think the CO2 turns the oil into shaving cream and brings it to the surface.

    However, using compressed CO2 is the best way to extract essential oils out of plants. The best CBD oil is extracted using CO2 instead of solvents (residues of solvents like butane get left in the gummies, and nobody wants that) so it might be better for the SD economy if the CO2 went to cannabis processors within the state.

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