Crop damage payouts debated as pipeline hearing continues

A company touted its plan to reimburse crop damages caused by the installation of its proposed carbon capture pipeline, and an opposing attorney criticized the plan Monday during the fourth day of a permit hearing before state regulators at the Casey Tibbs Rodeo Center in Fort Pierre. Meanwhile, an expert witness for the company testified that the pipeline is safe after prior testimony suggesting otherwise.

Stephen Lee is the executive vice president of engineering and construction for Navigator CO2, the company proposing the Heartland Greenway pipeline. He said the company will pay landowners “250% of crop damages” for as long as damages occur.

Brian Jorde, the lawyer representing landowners, said that language is misleading. He said landowners could suffer enough damage to receive 100% in each of years one and two, but would then be limited to 50% in year three and nothing more going forward because of the 250% cap.

The proposed 1,300-mile, approximately $3 billion Heartland Greenway pipeline would link 21 ethanol plants and several fertilizer plants across five states. Carbon dioxide emitted by the plants would be captured and transported for injection underground in Illinois (where it wouldn’t contribute to climate change by trapping heat in the atmosphere) or sold for commercial or industrial use. The project would include 111.9 miles of pipeline in eastern South Dakota, crossing rural land in Brookings, Moody, Minnehaha, Lincoln and Turner counties. The project needs a permit from the state Public Utilities Commission, which is conducting the hearing.

On the topic of crop damages, Jorde asked Lee, “What is Navigator’s written protocol for determining what ‘actual damages’ are?”