Minnesota PUC confirms authority to regulate CO2 pipelines

By Erin Voegele | May 24, 2022

The Minnesota Public Utilities Commission on May 19 unanimously voted that the organization has existing authority to permit the siting of carbon dioxide pipelines, including the two multi-state pipelines currently under development that will sequester CO2 from numerous ethanol plants.

According to the PUC, Minnesota statutes require pipelines that transport hazardous liquids and gas to obtain PUC permits prior to construction. The PUC decision announced May 19 asserts that carbon dioxide is a toxic or corrosive gas and is therefore subject to the agency’s existing regulatory authority.

“We heard broad-based support for PUC oversight of carbon pipelines from a variety of commenters, including tribal governments, labor unions, environmental groups and citizens,” said Chair Katie Sieben. “Minnesotans depend on regulatory agencies, like the PUC, to ensure the permitting process for CO2 pipelines will provide for an orderly review of environmental and socioeconomic impacts when evaluating proposed routes.”

Two large-scale carbon capture and storage (CCS) networks that will feature ethanol plants as anchor shippers are currently under development in the Midwest. Summit Carbon Solutions is developing the Midwest Carbon Express project, a project that will initially capture carbon dioxide produced at more than 30 ethanol plants located in Iowa, Minnesota, North Dakota, South Dakota and Nebraska, and  transport that carbon dioxide via pipeline to a sequestration site in North Dakota. Navigator CO2 Ventures LLC is developing the Heartland Greenway project, a separate CCS system that aims to connect biofuel producers and other industrial customers in Illinois, Iowa, Minnesota, Nebraska and South Dakota to a pipeline network that will sequester carbon dioxide at a location in Illinois.

With the Minnesota PUC’s May 19 vote, both proposed CO2 pipeline projects will be required to apply to the PUC for a route permit in order to move forward with components of the project located in Minnesota. The PUC said those permitting processes will have opportunities for public participation and review.

The PUC said it has also directed its staff to begin a rulemaking to make its rules consistent with state and federal regulations. PUC staff will file a request for comments in the state register, which will provide another opportunity for public engagement.