North Dakota utility regulators in an unusual move granted a request to reconsider their denial of a key permit for a proposed carbon dioxide pipeline.
North Dakota's Public Service Commission in a 2-1 vote on Friday granted Summit Carbon Solutions' request for reconsideration. Chairman Randy Christmann said the panel will set a hearing schedule and “clarify the issues to be considered."
Reconsideration “only allows additional evidence for the company to try to persuade us that they are addressing the deficiencies,” he said.
Denying Summit's request would have meant the company would have to reapply, with a monthslong process that would start all over again without any of the information in the current case, including lengthy testimony.
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Summit Executive Vice President Wade Boeshans told The Associated Press that the company appreciates the panel's decision and the opportunity to present additional evidence and address the regulators' concerns.
The panel last month unanimously denied Summit a siting permit for its 320-mile proposed route through the state, part of a $5.5 billion, 2,000-mile pipeline network that would carry planet-warming CO2 emissions from 30-some ethanol plants in five states to be buried deep underground in central North Dakota.
Supporters view carbon capture projects such as Summit's as a combatant of climate change, with lucrative, new federal tax incentives and billions from Congress for such carbon capture efforts. Opponents question the technology's effectiveness at scale and the need for potentially huge investments over cheaper renewable energy sources.
The panel denied the permit due to issues the regulators said Summit didn’t sufficiently address, such as cultural resource impacts, potentially unstable geologic areas and landowner concerns, among several other reasons.
Summit had asked for reconsideration, highlighting an alternative Bismarck-area route in its request, and for a “limited rehearing.”
“We will decide the hearing schedule, how limited it is, and we will decide what the issues to be considered are,” Christmann said.
The panel in a subsequent meeting will decide whether to approve or deny the siting permit, he said.
Summit applied in October 2022, followed by several public hearings over following months before the panel's Aug. 4 decision.
Christmann in his support for reconsideration cited a desire to save time and expenses for all parties involved in a new hearing process, such as myriad information and testimony that wouldn't carry over to a new process.
“I think it's very important that their testimony be carried forward as part of our final decision-making,” he said.
Commissioner Sheri Haugen-Hoffart, who opposed reconsideration and favored a new application, said Summit had ample time to address issues and information the panel was requesting in months of previous hearings, such as reroutes, and “they did not.”
“Some of these things are huge and were highly controversial during the hearings,” she said.