The utility board denies the Winnebago tribe’s application for an environmental study of CO2 pipelines

NICK HYTREK Sioux City Journal

DES MOINES – The Iowa Utilities Board on Friday denied the Winnebago tribe of Nebraska’s application for an environmental impact study along the proposed route of a liquid carbon dioxide pipeline that would pass near the tribe’s lands.

As the world warms and extreme weather events increase, governments and businesses are challenged to address climate change. The planet’s temperature has already risen by about 1.1 degrees Celsius (2 degrees Fahrenheit), and the effects will only get worse for every tenth of a degree it warms, scientists warn. Scientists and officials agree it’s important not to make things worse by burning more fossil fuels — coal, oil and natural gas — which release heat-trapping gases into the air. There is hope that cleaner alternatives — like solar and wind power — will replace much of that demand. As the cost of renewable energy falls, more and more energy is being produced in a sustainable manner, although the total amount of energy produced worldwide has also increased. Newer technologies such as green hydrogen, which uses renewable energy sources to harness hydrogen for power generation, and carbon capture, which sucks carbon dioxide out of the air, are being explored but still come at a high cost and are untested on a large scale . Methane, a greenhouse gas that is about 25 times more effective at trapping heat than carbon dioxide but only stays in the atmosphere for about a dozen years, also needs to be greatly reduced. Countries have vowed to stop methane leaks from oil wells and gas pipelines, which would have immediate benefits in curbing warming, scientists say. Elizabeth Robinson, director of the Grantham Research Institute on Climate Change and the Environment, pointed to halting deforestation and optimizing nutrition to find solutions. Using land for agriculture, particularly for raising livestock, which also requires large areas for grazing, means forests have to be cleared and more greenhouse gases are emitted into the air. Robinson also suggested using more so-called “active modes of transport” like cycling. “These are activities that can help reduce climate change while making us healthier,” she said.

The IUB said in its decision that an independent environmental study is not required by law and is unnecessary because Navigator Heartland Greenway must meet several environmental requirements during the process of applying for a permit for a hazardous liquid pipeline.

“Fulfilling the conditions for permits and approvals from other state and federal authorities is sufficient to clarify any environmental issues raised in the process,” according to the IUB.

During the permitting process, Heartland must demonstrate how it handles the environmental permits and permits required to build the pipelines. Other parties may also submit testimonies and pieces of evidence in response to the Company’s evidence. The Board will consider all of this evidence when deciding whether to grant a permit for the pipeline.

The Winnebago Tribal Council in June requested IUB, along with the US Army Corps of Engineers, the Woodbury County Board of Supervisors and the Dakota County Board of Commissioners, to require an environmental study before granting permits for the pipeline.

“The Winnebago Tribe has consistently opposed the issuing of permits for pipelines that could adversely affect our land or water. … the proposed pipelines and alternatives. Authorities issuing permits cannot make informed or informed decisions without this information. Neither can the general public,” the tribal council said in its resolution requesting the study.

If built, the 1,300-mile Heartland Greenway pipeline would collect carbon dioxide from ethanol plants and fertilizer processors in Iowa, Nebraska, South Dakota, Minnesota and Illinois, convert it to liquid form and transport it under high pressure to a site in Illinois where it would be transported would be pumped thousands of feet below the surface to prevent it from being released into the atmosphere.

Most of the Winnebago Indian Reservation is in Thurston County, Nebraska, but portions extend into Dixon and Woodbury counties. These sites are north of the reservation, but the pipeline would cross the Missouri River upstream of the reservation. The tribe is concerned about the pipeline route that runs beneath ancestral land and the burial sites that may be disruptive.