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South Dakota PUC denies Navigator CO2's pipeline application

Navigator CO2's Heartland Greenway in South Dakota
Navigator CO2 Ventures LLC
Navigator CO2 Ventures LLC
Navigator CO2's Heartland Greenway in South Dakota

The PUC unanimously voted to reject Navigator CO2 Venture’s application to build a carbon capture pipeline in South Dakota.

The project faced opposition throughout from some landowners and lawmakers over safety and use of eminent domain.

After a month of hearings, evidence, and testimony, South Dakota PUC commissioners denied Navigator's application in a meeting Wednesday.

The PUC first denied Navigator's request to preempt both Minnehaha and Moody counties' setback distances. Commissioner Chris Nelson said Navigator’s situation does not fit state preemption law.

“The first point I’d make is that a quick reading of this statue by anyone would conclude that this is an extreme remedy. I mean, think about it. You are asking one elected governing body to completely nullify the work of another elected governing body. That’s a high bar,” said Nelson.

All three PUC commissioners then voted to deny Navigator's application in full. Each commissioner addressed the four areas of an applicant’s responsibility, offering different opinions on each area.

Kristie Fiegen is the PUC commission Chairperson. She said Navigator failed to meet all four areas of applicant responsibility.

“As laid out, in 4941B-22, applicant has not proved by a preponderance of evidence that it will not unduly interfere with the orderly development of the region. And the permit should be denied,” said Fiegen.

Navigator had planned to build the pipeline in partnership with Valero and POET to transport carbon captured at three of their ethanol facilities and sequester the carbon underground in Illinois.

Navigator issued the following statement after the ruling:

"While we are disappointed with the recent decision to deny our permit application in South Dakota, our company remains committed to responsible infrastructure development. We will evaluate the written decision of the Public Utilities Commission once issued and determine our course of action in South Dakota thereafter. Our commitment to environmental stewardship and safety remains unwavering, and we will continue to pursue our permitting processes in the other regions we operate in," said Navigator.

A similar project by Summit Carbon Solutions will begin PUC hearings on Sept. 11.

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.