Ford County Board’s CO2 pipeline concerns align closely with those of opposition group

SPRINGFIELD — Among the 10 or so concerns that the Ford County Board plans to list in its petition to intervene and participate in the Illinois Commerce Commission’s hearing process for the carbon dioxide pipeline proposed by One Earth Sequestration LLC, most can already be found in a petition filed last month by the citizens group Save Our Illinois Land, which is opposed to both this project and carbon capture and sequestration in general.

“Carbon capture and sequestration (CCS) is a false solution,” the front page of the opposition group’s website says. “It allows the fossil fuel industry to continue to profit at our expense. When you consider the additional energy required throughout the process, it’s clear that the technology — end to end — emits more carbon dioxide than it removes from the atmosphere, especially when used for ‘enhanced oil recovery,’ and it is not profitable without subsidies.”

Save Our Illinois Land’s website said it is comprised of community members and landowners in Illinois who are concerned about the impact of pipeline infrastructure on Illinois’ land, waterways and residents. It represents the interests of landowners who object to a pipeline through their property and face eminent domain proceedings to forcibly give up their land.

The Ford County Board’s chairman, Debbie Smith of Paxton, left, and vice chairman, Cindy Ihrke of rural Roberts, discuss business during a special board meeting on Wednesday, Feb. 21.

“Individual landowners don’t have much bargaining capacity individually,” the website said. “Landowners who organize will be better able to prevent eminent domain proceedings and require stronger safety provisions and insurance from the pipeline company.”

Farmland damage, a reduction in crop production, drainage problems and safety concerns over the risk of a pipeline rupture are also among the group’s stated concerns.

Save Our Illinois Land’s petition to intervene
Save Our Illinois Land filed its petition to intervene in the ICC hearing process on Thursday, Jan. 18, through its attorneys, Joseph Murphy, Lauren McQueen and Bryce Davis of the Meyer Capel law firm in Champaign.

Called SOIL for short, the group’s members come from “many Illinois counties,” including Ford and McLean, all of whom would be “impacted” to “varying extents” by the 7.34-mile pipeline’s construction and operation in western Ford and eastern McLean counties, the petition said. The $19 million pipeline would transport liquid carbon dioxide captured from One Earth Energy’s 150-million-gallon ethanol facility in Gibson City to an injection site in McLean County.

The petition noted the concerns of SOIL members who could be forced to allow the use of their land for the project through the company’s exercising of eminent domain to acquire the necessary easements. The petition noted that One Earth Sequestration, in its application for a certificate of authority to build and operate the pipeline, has sought an order authorizing it to “take and acquire easements and interest in private property through the exercise of eminent domain,” if needed.

“Some of SOIL’s members own, use and/or enjoy land that is currently designated as part of or in proximity to the route of OES’ proposed carbon dioxide pipeline to be addressed in this proceeding, or will be impacted financially or in other ways … if the pipeline is installed and becomes operational,” Save Our Illinois Land’s petition said.

The project “raises a number of concerns for SOIL and its members,” the petition said, including:

— “Proximity to incorporated communities, rural residences, public lands, livestock facilities, businesses, schools, churches, hospitals, senior living facilities, prisons, airports and other occupied buildings or structures, including those associated with farm operations.”

— “Threats to human health and livestock, including the potential for loss of life from ruptures of the pipeline that can spread harmful carbon-related gases for more than a mile from the point of rupture.”

— “Reduced property values for land acquired for construction and operation of the pipeline.”

— “Reduced values for properties located up to a mile or more from the carbon pipeline that are at risk from a pipeline rupture.”

— “Uncertainty related to the ability to obtain insurance to protect one’s property against a CO2 pipeline leak or rupture.”

— “Loss of farm income due, but not limited to reduced crop yield from pipeline construction, due to the mixing of soils, compacted soils, altered drainage due to severed drain tiles; costs associated with repair to damaged infrastructure that will exceed the compensation offered by the pipeline company; and restrictions to the use of productive farmland that will occur due to the existence of the pipeline.”

— “Inability of first responders to adequately assist in the event of a rupture, due to, among other things, insufficient personnel, training and equipment needed to respond to a carbon pipeline rupture.”

— “Lack of … carbon dioxide monitors, alarm systems, air supply breathing equipment and appropriate vehicles, all of which are necessary to detect, survive and escape from a pipeline rupture.”

— “Lack of federal regulations and oversight, as concluded by the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA) for the design, construction, operation and maintenance of the carbon dioxide pipeline that endangers the public.”

— “Lack of standards and threshold criteria by the state of Illinois required to ensure the proposed carbon dioxide pipeline is set back far enough from occupied buildings to ensure the safe and successful rescue of people in the event of a leak or rupture.”

— “Loss of income and associated costs of rebuilding infrastructure that would be required in the event of a rupture that is in proximity to highways and bridges, other pipelines, residential developments and businesses of all kinds.”

— “Increased costs to SOIL’s members, including tax increases associated with construction, operation and emergency preparedness for any failures of the carbon pipeline.”

The petition noted that SOIL “opposes OES’ plan” to construct the CO2 pipeline and asked that copies of “all pleadings, notices and correspondence in this docket” be sent to its attorneys.

Ford County’s petition to intervene
The petition to be filed on behalf of Ford County is expected to mention several of those same concerns. The county board recently approved spending up to $40,000 to have outside legal counsel participate on the county’s behalf as an intervener in the hearing process, and the board also approved a list of concerns to be included as testimony in the county’s petition to intervene.

The concerns included the potential for a reduction in property values, uncertainty over the availability of property insurance, proximity to incorporated communities, the inability of first-responders to adequately assist in the event of a pipeline rupture, a lack of carbon dioxide monitor and alarm systems and breathing equipment, a lack of available guidance from both the state of Illinois and the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration on the operation and maintenance of pipelines, increased costs to Ford County associated with emergency preparedness for pipelines, the potential use of eminent domain, and potential impacts on the economy, infrastructure and public safety.

Petitions to intervene and participate in the ICC hearing process have also been filed on behalf of the Illinois Farm Bureau and the McLean County State’s Attorney’s Office. In their respective petitions, both asked that copies of “all pleadings, notices, correspondence and other documents” in the case be sent to their attorneys.

Illinois Farm Bureau’s petition to intervene
Filed by its attorneys, Laura Harmon and Garrett Thalgott, the Illinois Farm Bureau filed its petition to intervene on Friday, Feb. 2, noting its interest in protecting the productivity of agricultural land in Illinois.

Headquartered in Bloomington, the Illinois Farm Bureau has 77,000 members living in every county in the state, with a mission to “improve the economic wellbeing of agriculture and enrich the quality of farm family life,” the petition said.

The petition noted that under the Carbon Dioxide Transportation and Sequestration Act, One Earth Sequestration, like any applicant seeking a certificate of authority to build and operate a CO2 pipeline, must enter into an agreement with the Illinois Department of Agriculture that mitigates the pipeline’s impact on agricultural land.

“The Farm Bureau has an interest in ensuring that the protections to farmland afforded by the Act are preserved,” the petition said, adding that it has “an interest in ensuring that an appropriate (agricultural impact mitigation agreement) is timely executed by One Earth in this case.”

McLean County’s petition to intervene
McLean County Assistant State’s Attorney Trevor Sierra filed a petition to intervene on Nov. 29, noting that the pipeline project could have an impact on roads and other infrastructure in McLean County, as well as on emergency responders in the county.

The petition noted that the proposed pipeline would run northwest from the eastern border of McLean County, ending at sequestration sites in McLean County.

“Presumably, (the) pipeline will cross roads and other improvements operated by McLean County that may be impacted thereby,” the petition said.

The petition also noted that “McLean County, along with other units of local government within the county, provides emergency responders to events occurring within the county.”

“As a unit of local government that will be impacted by (the) proposed pipeline, McLean County is therefore interested in the subject matter of this proceeding as it will be affected by any order entered by the commission,” the petition said.