Winnebago Tribe calls for study of carbon pipelines’ impact on environment | Regional Government

The Winnebago Tribe of Nebraska said an environmental impact study must be completed before any permits are granted for a pair of CO2 pipes in many Great Plains states.

In a May 27 letter to the Dakota County Board of Commissioners, the tribe said it had concerns that the two projects — Midwest Carbon Express of Summit Carbon Solutions and Hartland Greenway of Navigator Ventures — might negatively impact reserve lands.

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“Any pipeline project is a risk,” Jennifer Bear Eagle, an attorney from Winnebago who represents the tribe, wrote in the letter. “As the permit-issuing body, neither you nor the general public can make an informed decision without (knowing) the potential environmental impacts.”

Until that happens, the Winnebago Tribe – which agreed to call for an environmental study in a March 24 resolution – “opposes any permit that could adversely affect their own lands, waters, or the lands of their neighbours.”

Similar letters have been sent to the US Army Corps of Engineers office in Omaha, the Woodbury County Board of Commissioners in Iowa, as well as the Iowa Facilities Board, to be included as part of consideration of the Summit Carbon Solutions permit application.

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Summit and Navigator, which announced last year, is building thousands of miles of new pipelines through the region, moving CO2 captured from ethanol plants to deep-earth sequestration sites in North Dakota and Illinois.

By sequestering carbon dioxide, Summit Carbon Solutions and Navigator Ventures can take advantage of the 45Q tax credit, which will save $50 per ton of carbon stored for up to 12 years.

Ethanol plants were keen to get involved in the project as well, as it would lower the “carbon intensity” scores, maintaining access to consumer markets with strict standards for fuel producers.

Additionally, they said, it will help Nebraska’s corn growers, who supply ethanol plants with nearly 280 million bushels of corn each year.

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Critics of the pipelines said the technology for burying carbon dioxide deep in the earth had not been proven and would not do enough to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, calling the projects cash grab.

According to project maps, neither project will enter the Winnebago Preserve in Thurston County, instead tracing through Dakota County. The summit representative said the pipeline avoids more than 60 reservations across its scope.

But in a press release on Tuesday, Winnebago Tribal Minister Lorelei Decora said tribe members had concerns about going downstream from the planned route.

“The pipeline construction route is on the ancestral lands of the Nebraska tribes,” Decora said. “What happens when they disturb our ancestors’ burial sites? There is a lot that is unknown about these pipelines. That is why it is important to do this study.”

“It is our duty to protect Mother Earth,” she said.

Summit and Navigator have not yet received permission to begin construction, but Summit has begun obtaining easements from land owners in several Nebraska counties as it advances the project through various regulatory processes across several states.

In an interview earlier this month, summit officials touted the outreach the Iowa-based company had with tribes and local governments before the review of its permit applications ended.

“I’ve worked on a lot of pipeline and transmission projects over the past 30 years or so,” Troy Eid, an outside advisor on tribal affairs, told Summit. “This is a project that, more than any other project I’ve worked on, we came out very early in the process.”

Eid, the former US attorney general under President George W. Bush and chair of the Indian Law and Order Commission under President Barack Obama, said federal approval for carbon dioxide tubes is not currently required.

But the nature of the projects will lead to a requirement that government and tribal bodies consult each other on the project, he said.

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Eid added that Sumit has tried to take this trigger forward by engaging with tribes in the five states where the pipeline will be operated, in order to share what it sees as benefits to the environment and the economy, as well as how the tribes are. You may benefit.

“We want them to be involved, so that when that consultation happens, you will have your own information and you can ask your own questions and draw your own conclusions,” he said.

Chris Hill, the project’s senior advisor, said Summit has also undertaken a cultural survey across its proposed route, which he said goes beyond what previous projects have accomplished.

“This is the first time a pipeline project has initiated this dialogue before sending out a pre-construction notice,” Hill said.

However, the Winnebago Tribe’s decision and mission come at a time when the projects encountered resistance in many states and counties, particularly from landowners concerned that the prominent field could be used to secure the land needed to complete the trail.

No counties in Nebraska have followed in the footsteps of those in Iowa and South Dakota that have voiced blanket opposition to the pipelines, but there have been some county-level discussions about enacting new zoning rules to govern the projects.

Dakota County held a hearing on proposed pipeline regulations on May 16, according to the minutes of the Board of Commissioners.

Those regulations required the pipeline to be installed no less than 1,320 feet from the dwelling and at least 6 feet underground, 8 feet underground at county rights of way.

Several of the people who testified at the May 16 meeting of commissioners — including representatives from both Summit and Navigator, as well as natural gas companies — opposed the proposed regulations as too onerous and pledged to work with the county on the reviews.

Indigenous Peoples Day

Victoria Kechian, President of the Winnebago Tribe of Nebraska, speaks at the dedication ceremony of the flags of the four Nebraska-based tribes as part of Indigenous Peoples Day in 2021 at Warner Hall in the Capitol.

GWYNETH ROBERTS, Journal Star file photo

In March, on the same day that the Winnebago Tribe said it would oppose any pipeline projects without an environmental impact study, officials in Holt County — which enacted pipeline regulations during the proposed Keystone XL tar sands project — rejected the proposed moratorium on new pipelines.

Echoing many of the people who spoke during a public meeting, Holt County supervisors said the suspension sent the wrong message that the county was closed for business.

On the other hand, tribal leaders said that the projects could wait until it was demonstrated that the pipelines would not have a negative impact on the environment.

“The Winnebago Tribe stands in solidarity with the area farmers who oppose these pipelines and the use of the eminent domain to access land without the consent of the landowner,” said commission chairwoman Victoria Kechian. “The health, well-being and rights of everyone is important to all of us.”

Contact the writer at 402-473-7120 or [email protected]

on Twitter @ChrisDunkerLJS

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