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(CHRISTIAN COUNTY) — This map shows the direction of a pipeline (dotted lines) of being proposed for Christian County with the ultimate end use of sequestering CO2 gas some 5,000 deep in the ground. The 11-mile pipeline project is up for review by the Illinois Commerce Commission (ICC) as Heartland Greenway is seeking permission to construct the pipeline, with the use of eminent domain as a last resort.
(CHRISTIAN COUNTY) — The company which is proposing a carbon capture project with plans to sink an injection well terminating in Christian County, has petitioned the Illinois Commerce Commission (ICC) in Springfield to build the pipeline.
Navigator Heartland Greenway filed the petition before the ICC on Monday, July 25, 2022.
Contained in the 45-page document is a request to use eminent domain in order to construct the pipeline. While the petition states the use of eminent domain would be the last resort for the company, the prospect of its use is concerning to area residents.
“The use of eminent domain, I think, has been abused over the years,” said Bryan Sharp, 47, a Taylorville area farmer and member of the Christian County Board.
“The premise of which it started under was for the growth of the nation was for the development of infrastructure within the nation when it was building out – building out roadways, building out water infrastructure, canals, bridges and those kind of things. But it’s very disheartening thesis days to see it being used by companies to exploit eminent domain to take land from landowners.”
The permit to build the pipeline is in anticipation of the establishment of a carbon capture system (CCS). The injection well would be located north and slightly east of Taylorville in Christian County, near Mt. Auburn. A high pressure well would inject the liquified carbon dioxide about a mile deep underground in the geological area known as the Mt. Simon formation.
Navigator CO2 Ventures is beginning the permitting process for the Heartland Greenway System in other states as well. The pipeline is roughly 1,300 miles and will be located in South Dakota, Nebraska, Minnesota, Iowa and Illinois.
Elizabeth Burns-Thompson, vice-president of government and public affairs admits the process in dealing with five state governments is a bit complicated.
“This is a multi-state project, so we’re having to layer on top the processes that are intact in other states as well, and it would make it too easy if all of those were exactly the same,” Burns-Thompson said. “There is different nuances in terms of what can be filed where, or what goes first versus what goes second, and who can talk to who and when, and those are a bit different in each state. So, we’re trying to overlap those as much as possible, knowing the project as a whole needs to fall in sync.”
The process is expected to take between two and two-and-a-half years to complete, with initial operation of the pipeline expected in 2025.
Tenaska representatives are currently reaching out to landowners across approximately 24,000 acres in northern Christian County about acquiring access to pore space (which is like acquiring mineral rights) more than a mile underground in the Mt. Simon formation.
The Mt. Simon formation, where Christian County is located, is well suited for CO2 storage. The geologic properties of the Mt. Simon formation in central Illinois are why similar projects are safely operating or planned in the region.
According to information supplied by Tenaska, with the project expected to operate for 30 years, Heartland Greenway could pay an estimated $1.2 million to $3 million annually in total to all landowners, who would retain ownership and full use of their land – just as they always have.
Other than six above-ground injection wells and approximately 12 monitoring wells that will be carefully sited in consultation with select landowners, the storage space will have no impact on land use.
In their filing, Heartland Greenway says there is approximately 40 square miles, or 25,000 acres, “of available pore space for permanent sequestration of CO2.”
It continues to state, “A total of six injection wells, six in-zone monitoring wells, six above zone monitoring wells and 17 shallow monitoring wells will be installed. The injection wells that will direct the captured and compressed CO2 more than 5,800 feet beneath the ground surface will receive permits under the authority of the U. S. Environmental Protection Agency.”
The company says the Mount Simon Formation in Illinois is one of the most thoroughly studied formations for sequestration and has “ample capacity and availability to sequester hundreds of millions of metric tons of CO2, and is readily accessible in south and central Illinois.”
It is Paragraph 66 which has a lot of landowners rattled, where the company is asking for the use of eminent domain:
“It is Applicant’s intent and goal to acquire the necessary land rights to construct and operate the HGPS through good-faith voluntary negotiations with all landowners. Applicant has no desire to condemn the easements required for the pipeline and prefers to avoid condemnation, which is ideally reserved for situations such as when absentee owners cannot be located or there are large trusts, and all beneficiaries cannot be located or cannot agree. However, the authority to condemn can be warranted under other certain circumstances, such as when the applicant encounters refusals of contact or refusal to negotiate. Use of condemnation authority could be critical to securing a route that effectively minimizes the collective impact of the HGPS and is optimally located for the environment, the public, pipeline safety, and landowners in the aggregate. Applicant does not and would not utilize condemnation unless and until all reasonable offers and efforts to acquire the easement by agreement had been refused or rejected. Applicant additionally will only utilize condemnation to acquire an easement in the event it is necessary to avoid unreasonable delay or economic hardship to the progress of activities being carried out under the certificate of authority.”
Checking the comment section of the ICC website for the project, as of Aug. 9, 13 comments from around the state are against the project with just one – the Director of the Great Plains Laborers-Employers Cooperative and Educational Trust – in favor of the project due to the number of construction jobs it will bring to the state.
“As a land owner, I really do have mixed emotions,” Sharp said. “I know there has got to be a happy median for the benefit of the public but there has got to be a great deal of respect for the people who have cared for those lands.”
The Christian County Board approved a six-month moratorium on the issuance of any permits for any carbon capture projects. They have hired a law firm which specializes in these matters for guidance. So far, there has been little results as the sands of the moratorium run out.
“We are terribly unprepared as a county for all of these projects that are flying at us,” Sharp said. “We hired attorneys to help us craft rules because it is terribly out of our league.There is no one on our Board who is qualified to write any type of ordinance. It was quite a struggle to get to the point we needed someone to help us write something that protects the people of Christian County. To that point, I don’t know where those folks are at right now.”
At one point, it was thought the county’s zoning administrator could craft some sort of rules from the updated codes for wind turbines, but they are not the same as carbon capture, Sharp said.
“There’s nothing there that is similar (to wind turbines). There’s nothing there that’s the same issues or the same concerns to speak of,” said Sharp. “The science between carbon capture and wind turbines is totally different. I was absolutely not a fan of that.”
The public can access the application to the ICC at their website and go to the docket search tab and typing in P2022-0497. There is a section where public comments can be registered.