Simplified: The Minnehaha County Commission voted Tuesday morning to approve an ordinance to regulate the zoning of carbon dioxide pipelines. Here's a look at what is included in that ordinance and what happens next.

Why it matters

  • Two proposed carbon capture pipeline projects would impact Minnehaha County, and county officials said they wanted to have local rules in place before those pipeline projects have their hearings with the state Public Utilities Commissioner in September.
  • These pipelines would be used to offset carbon dioxide emitted during ethanol production by capturing the gas, compressing it and storing it underground. It's a contentious process that's faced pushback from landowners who don't want the hazardous material pumped through their land.
  • County officials on Tuesday said they're trying to balance the rights of landowners with the plans of the companies working to build the pipelines. The final piece of the puzzle for Minnehaha County was determining pipeline setbacks, i.e. how far pipelines must be from other structures.
"My goal was not to shut down pipelines," said Commissioner Jean Bender, who was the deciding vote on the setback amendment that resulted in a 2-2 tie at the last meeting. "My goal was to try to balance those interests."

What are the rules commissioners approved?

Here's a breakdown:

  • Companies looking to bring a pipeline have to provide maps of where the proposed pipeline would intersect with the county, including the location of any above-ground structures like shut-off valves or pumps, as well as a copy of its emergency response and hazard mitigation plan.
  • The pipeline cannot run within 330 feet of property lines. If it cannot meet those setbacks, the company would need a conditional use permit.

The original draft of the ordinance had setbacks at 750 feet, but Commissioner Joe Kippley noted that it essentially meant no pipeline could wind its way through the county without needing a conditional use permit – and, thus, a public hearing.

"If we stick with this, largely, we've blotted out the whole county," Kippley said Tuesday morning.

What happens next?

The pipelines have to get approval from the state PUC before they can proceed.