Delegates build out IFB policy on CO2 pipelines


Illinois Farm Bureau’s policy book now features expanded language related to carbon dioxide pipelines after voting delegates gathered in Chicago for the 2023 Annual Meeting adopted four additional measures.

Among the new policies were a pair of submittals advanced by the IFB Resolutions Committee this fall, with one submittal supporting a temporary moratorium on CO2 pipeline projects until a revised set of federal regulations are promulgated, and the other submittal supporting a range of safety mechanism around projects in Illinois.

The other two approved submittals originated from the floor during Delegate Session on Dec. 4, with one submittal supporting legislation that prohibits the use of eminent domain for CO2 pipelines.

The final submittal supports project developers “demonstrating progress at securing willing agreements” for storage rights and easements prior to project approval by the Illinois Commerce Commission.

“There were a number of counties that submitted (resolutions), several different options were put out there,” said Kevin Semlow, IFB executive director of governmental affairs and commodities.

“This is the great thing about our policy process: the delegates meld them all together and they come out with a clear policy and move those forward,” Semlow said. “It’s pretty clear what our members are focused on right now and this is a hot topic issue that’s been addressed.”

Support for safety measures advances

IFB’s existing policy on pipelines capable of transporting for permanent storage in Illinois the carbon dioxide captured from ethanol production was adopted at the 2022 Annual Meeting.

It states IFB supports: “Pipeline transportation of carbon dioxide captured from ethanol and fertilizer production to locations with favorable geological formations for permanent storage. All CO2 pipelines should be constructed to protect public safety and should adhere to the Pipeline Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA) standards.”

IFB has not taken a position on the proposed Mt. Simon Hub Pipeline, the proposed Heartland Greenway Pipeline System, which was recently called off, or the proposed One Earth Sequestration Pipeline. But IFB did petition the ICC to intervene on the former two projects so that it could raise any issues with the regulatory approval process.

Those moves along with the future of the ethanol industry, members’ safety concerns and emphasizing private property rights framed the debate by the 327 county Farm Bureau delegates present for delegate session Dec. 4.

Discussion was first focused on a submittal — it was ultimately approved — from Fulton County Farm Bureau that would support a temporary moratorium “on the approval of the construction and operation of any carbon dioxide pipeline until the PHMSA promulgates its revised federal safety standards for transportation of carbon dioxide.”

The proposed policy had included a specific date when the standards might be finalized, but delegates moved to strike the reference so that it wouldn’t restrict the scope of the policy.

Delegates also debated and advanced a submittal from LaSalle County Farm Bureau that supports companies adding a “distinctive odor” to the liquid CO2 moving through pipelines to “alert people to its presence.”

The policy further supports companies utilizing “enhanced leak detection with automatic shutoffs, automatic notification of emergency services in an area where a leak has been detected” and providing “training and equipment donations to first responders in the pipeline area.”

Debate centers on eminent domain authority

Most of the discussion time held by delegates came during consideration of a policy proposed by McDonough County Farm Bureau that calls for supporting “legislation that prohibits the use of eminent domain for CO2 pipelines.”

Support for the submittal was largely framed in terms of defending private property rights, with McDonough County delegate Steve Hess arguing that because defending those rights are a top priority for IFB, the organization should “take a stand and make a statement (against eminent domain authority).”

Opposition to the submittal, meanwhile, was rooted in concerns that it may put IFB at a disadvantage when negotiating future projects or legislation, with Ogle County president Keith Poole arguing the policy could tie the hands of IFB leaders and asking: “How can you tell people your values if you don’t have a seat at the table?”

Delegates also heard from IFB staff, who explained when the ICC approves an application for a CO2 pipeline to be built, that approval also brings eminent domain authority to the project.

“Our members don’t feel that that’s very fair, and, based on the new policy put in, they’d like to see us change that,” Semlow said.

The final policy related to CO2 pipelines adopted by IFB delegates originated from the delegate floor as a proposal from Christian County Farm Bureau.

It states that IFB supports: “Developers of carbon dioxide pipelines and storage projects demonstrating progress at securing willing agreements for pipeline easements and willing agreements for storage rights prior to approval of the project by the ICC.”

Sponsoring the submittal was Christian County Farm Bureau president Mathew Heberling.

Heberling told FarmWeek he sees the policy creating a kind of “safeguard, more or less a bumper rail” against pipeline projects approaching the ICC for approval and for eminent domain authority without either having significant landowner buy-in or proving they’re making progress on landowner participation.

“By doing this, we’re telling the companies that you’re not just gonna get the easy way,” Heberling explained. “For eminent domain, you still got to make a good faith effort to try and negotiate and come to a consensus agreement with the participating landowners.”

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