Environmentalists push carbon capture regulation at Capitol


Christine Nannicelli of the Sierra Club Illinois, center, speaks during a press conference against carbon dioxide pipelines in front of  the state Capitol Tuesday, May 2, 2023.

Environmentalists rallied at the Capitol on Tuesday, urging lawmakers to pass legislation regulating the carbon capture and sequestration industry in Illinois.

Two bills were discussed during a brief rally held in front of the Lincoln statue, one which advocates support and another, which they claim is more industry-friendly, that they oppose. The bill they back is the Carbon Dioxide Transport and Storage Protections Act listed under Senate Bill 2421 and House Bill 3119.

Both pieces of legislation – sponsored by Sen. Laura Fine, D-Glenview and Rep. Ann Williams respectively – have yet to advance out of their chambers, but action could still happen before the May 19 spring session adjournment of the Illinois General Assembly. Lawmakers could tack the existing or modified language through an amendment to a shell bill- a tactic oft-seen near the end of legislative sessions.

Among a list of several regulations, the bill determines how far a pipeline must be from a property and places liability for any damages on the company instead of the taxpayer. Companies would also have to pay for the “training for carbon dioxide emergencies for emergency responders, medical personnel, residents, businesses, and other local entities,” per the bill.

Ownership of pore spaces, a subsurface area where the liquified carbon dioxide would be stored, would not be granted to operators and instead belong to the owner of the surface area. This has been a primary concern for the agriculture community, who have largely opposed any eminent domain claims by companies wishing to construct pipelines.

Advocates say passage of the legislation is needed swiftly with more companies looking to build CO2 pipelines in Illinois, including the Navigator Heartland Greenway pipeline running through 14 counties in the state.

“We are woefully unprepared and unprotected without critical regulatory safeguards to adequately protect our communities from this growing scale and threat,” Christine Nannicelli, senior campaign representative with Sierra Club Illinois, told the crowd.

The other set of bills, House Bill 2202 and Senate Bill 2153, have support from industry groups like Archer-Daniels-Midland Company, Navigator CO2 Ventures and the Illinois Manufacturers Association. Rep. Jay Hoffman, D-Swansea, and Sen. Bill Cunningham, D-Chicago are the bills’ sponsors – neither making it to a full chamber vote so far this session.

Omaha-based Navigator, currently proposing its multi-state pipeline to the Illinois Commerce Commission, told Capitol News Illinois last week the language in these pieces of legislation was similar to other states and thus had its backing.

Related:What to know about Navigator’s new, expanded C02 pipeline application

“For Illinois to attract CCUS (carbon capture utilization and sequestration) investments and meet our state’s environmental goals, this legislation creates a landscape for large-scale projects to succeed,” the company said in a written statement to CNI.

The bills codify pore space ownership and create an application process at the Department of Natural Resources for companies to follow when obtaining rights to use pore space. However, liability would still belong to the state, prompting opposition from environmentalists.

“The industry approach in HB 2202 is pretty simple,” said Nannicelli. “(It) basically says let’s have Illinois taxpayers and communities carry all of the risk and liability. And instead of putting safeguards in place, just trust us. We know better.”

The Navigator project has been the subject of several moratoriums to pipeline construction in central and western Illinois counties, concerned that existing federal regulations are not sufficient. Following a 2020 pipeline burst in Satartia, Mississippi hospitalizing dozens and forcing hundreds to evacuate, the federal Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration announced it would be crafting new standards for CO2 pipelines, which will likely take years to draft.

Dawn Dannenbring of Bloomington holds up a sign protesting carbon dioxide pipelines during a press conference in front of the state Capitol Tuesday, May 2, 2023.

These concerns in-mind, the Sangamon County Zoning and Land Use Committee recently voted to extend the county’s moratorium through Dec. 31, 2023. During the rally, mayor of Galesburg Peter Schwartzman said he would support a stay on carbon capture facilities in favor of building state investment in renewable energies like solar and wind.

“If they’re allowed to proceed without the necessary protections for people and the environment, then we face a world of uncertainty, one filled with dangers and risks,” he said. “And sadly, as we’ve seen time and time again, the most vulnerable members of our communities will face the greatest risks based on the initial maps of where these pipelines are planned.”

President of the Peoria Park District Robert Johnson speaks during a press conference in front of the state Capitol Tuesday, May 2, 2023.

Southside Peoria would be one of those areas impacted by the proposed Wolf Carbon Solutions CO2 pipeline, said city Park District President Robert Johnson. He said the pipeline, running from Cedar Rapids, Iowa to Decatur, would go through an urban environmental justice area in the city that is impoverished and already dealing with poor health outcomes.

Regional:‘Unacceptable risk’ or safe solution? CO2 pipeline proposal faces fierce debate in Peoria

“I don’t know that I would ever be open to a pipeline through an urban environmental justice area,” he said. “But before anyone has that conversation, we first need to put some safeguards in place.”

Andrew Adams of Capitol News Illinois contributed to this report.

Contact Patrick Keck: 312-549-9340, pkeck@gannett.com, twitter.com/@pkeckreporter.

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May 2, 2023 at 08:09PM

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