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Minnehaha County commissioners split on pipeline ordnances

Minnehaha County administration building
Evan Walton
Minnehaha County administration building

Minnehaha County commissioners debated the safety implications of CO2 pipelines in their latest meeting.

Commissioners heard testimony in support and opposition to the proposed pipelines being routed across the state in Tuesday's meeting.

The main talking point for most in attendance was the safety aspects of pipelines, the possibility of rupture, and their proximity to the public.

John Godfrey is a senior principal consultant with DNV, an international consulting company headquartered in Norway. He said that current pipeline regulations have been working without incident for years.

“The regulations focus on identifying threats to the pipelines and preventing those threats through design standards, construction requirements, operations and maintenance regulations. Same regulations that apply to these pipelines,” said Godfrey.

Joe Kippley is a Minnehaha County commissioner. He proposed reducing pipeline offset distance from 750 feet to 330 feet for homes, churches and businesses.

Kippley said a larger offset could limit future business opportunity.

“I don’t necessarily see this as something that will constrain or kill economic development and no one wants to be near a pipeline. Some entities will want to be near that pipeline," said Kippley. "I think this is eminently defensible, and then, within that 330 feet, about a football field buffer zone, maybe we want to welcome new business to Minnehaha County that want to be near the pipeline, want to tap into it.”

Chase Jensen is a community organizer and lobbyist for Dakota Rural Action. Jensen spoke to the commission on behalf of multiple landowners expressing their main concerns.

“The companies have not provided rupture modeling information, and then would fly in an expert consultant on the final reading of an ordinance to try and disway the county from doing any action - without having provided any tangible information about the actual risks of a rupture,” said Jensen.     

Commissioners were split on their decision in a two-to-two vote. Due to the tie vote, the amendment was pushed to the commission’s June 6 meeting.

Brown County commissioners, when faced with the same choice in late April, voted to increase the offset distance to 1,500 feet.

Evan Walton is an SDPB reporter based in Sioux Falls. Evan holds a Master’s in English Literature from Southern New Hampshire University and was honorably discharged from the United States Army in 2015, where he served for five years as an infantryman.