North Dakota county approves pipeline safety ordinance

The Burleigh County Commission approved a hazardous liquid pipeline health and safety ordinance in response to the planned Midwest Carbon Express and is working on a pipeline zoning ordinance.

Summit ND route.png
The Summit pipeline's proposed route in North Dakota.

BISMARCK — The Burleigh County (North Dakota) Commission has approved a hazardous liquid pipeline health and safety ordinance in response to plans for a regional carbon dioxide pipeline that will cross the county — a move the developer says unnecessarily duplicates federal regulation.

County officials also are crafting a zoning ordinance related to such pipelines that will determine requirements such as minimum distances from homes, schools and animal feedlots.

The ordinance the five-member commission unanimously approved Monday, March 6, is aimed at ensuring the safety of people in the area of Summit Carbon Solutions’ planned Midwest Carbon Express pipeline, which would cross the county 5 miles to the north of Bismarck.

A man in a green shirt with a black sport jacket over it.
Burleigh County Commissioner Wayne Munson
Courtesy / Burleigh County

Commissioner Wayne Munson stressed that it also applies to other future hazardous liquid pipelines, including natural gas, but he acknowledged that "I understand CO2 is the hotbed topic of the day."

Bismarck-Burleigh Health Officer Dr. David Pengilly told commissioners last month that the risk to public safety from a carbon dioxide pipeline is no greater than that associated with other types of hazardous gases and pipelines, and that “There is no unacceptable risk to health, welfare and life safety for a CO2 pipeline.”


But many residents and landowners north of Bismarck oppose the pipeline, and several spoke at Monday night's meeting, arguing for the adoption of the safety ordinance.

"We want it to be safe, and I don't feel it'll be safe where it's going," Karl Rakow said of the pipeline.

Former Bismarck Mayor John Warford said the pipeline would cross a mile of his land, and would be less than 2 miles from where his children live and where his grandchildren go to school. He also said there are 1,247 residents within 2 miles of the pipeline's path through the county.

"I fear for the safety of my family; I fear for the safety of the schoolchildren; and I also fear for the safety of those in the rural residential area that this pipeline is proposed to go through," he said.

A man in a black suit, white shirt with spiky hair.
Jeff Skaare, Summit's director of land, legal and regulatory affairs.

Jeff Skaare, Summit's director of land, legal and regulatory affairs, and Alex Lange, the company's engineering manager, told commissioners that CO2 pipelines are safe, with risks "significantly less" than risks associated with other hazardous liquid pipelines. Summit recently submitted to the county a lengthy risk analysis.

"I'm not dismissing anybody's concerns here; I think they're genuinely held," Skaare said at the Monday meeting. "I'm not sure they're based in fact."

County Planning Director Mitch Flanagan told commissioners that the Summit analysis relied on data up to 2019 — before a CO2 pipeline ruptured in Satartia, Mississippi, in 2020, prompting the evacuation of hundreds of people and sending dozens of people to the hospital.

The federal Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration is now updating safety regulations for carbon dioxide pipelines, including requirements related to emergency preparedness and response.


The fact that PHMSA regulates CO2 pipelines — and has done so for more than 40 years —makes local ordinances unnecessary, according to Skaare and Lange.

"They have the subject matter experts, they have the resources to invest all that time and make sure pipeline projects like ours are safe to the public," Lange said.

Flanagan said Summit is "dancing around the fact that PHMSA ordinances are old."

Safety ordinance

A map of the Summit Carbon Solutions pipeline project
A map of the Summit Carbon Solutions pipeline project as it travels into Iowa, Nebraska, South Dakota, North Dakota and Minnesota.
Troy Becker / The Forum

The commission, convening first as the County Board of Health on Monday, approved a public health statement that “expresses concern for the risk of hazardous liquid gas exposure to humans, the environment and livestock.” Commission Chair Becky Matthews said it is a "statement of concerns that we've heard from constituents and researched."

It set the stage for the safety ordinance that requires companies building hazardous liquid pipelines to submit emergency plans to local officials, to ensure public health and safety.

The ordinance requires a pipeline company to provide educational materials to landowners and upon request to any other "interested persons" about the project and any associated dangers, and to provide an emergency action plan for approval by local emergency responders. The pipeline company will then provide regular updates to county Emergency Management.

If a carbon dioxide pipeline falls under federal regulations, the ordinance requires the company to provide documentation that it complied with those rules, as well as submit a plan for how the company will work with local officials in the event of an emergency. Those provisions also apply to pipelines transporting hazardous liquids other than CO2.

If a carbon dioxide pipeline does not fall under federal regulations, the company has to submit an emergency response plan with numerous requirements. They include "an estimate of the worst-case discharge of carbon dioxide," a computer model showing the "blast zone" for the pipeline, an analysis of risks of alternative routes compared to the proposed route, and a map and legal description of all occupied structures and animal facilities within 2 miles of the route. The company also has to secure county approvals for road use and will be responsible for repairing any road damage.


Lange said Summit already is proactively meeting with emergency response officials in all 81 counties the pipeline would pass through on emergency response plans.

Skaare said there was "nothing in this ordinance that is overly offensive or burdensome," just duplicative of federal rules.

Munson said, "We've all heard about (the) Mississippi accident. I am horrified for what happened there. I don't want it here."

The county does not have any authority to stop the pipeline but it can approve certain restrictions. The Planning and Zoning Commission will discuss the second ordinance being drafted at a meeting on Wednesday night. It pertains to special use permits required for hazardous liquid pipelines. The meeting is at 5:15 p.m. in the Tom Baker Meeting Room of the City/County Building, at 221 N. Fifth St. in Bismarck. The ordinance ultimately will come before the County Commission for approval.

The North Dakota Public Service Commission will permit the route of the pipeline, and the state Industrial Commission will permit the CO2 disposal site. Summit must also comply with federal regulations.

The PSC will host four public hearings. The first is next Tuesday, March 14, at 8:30 a.m. Central time in Russell Reid Auditorium at the North Dakota Heritage Center & State Museum on the Capitol grounds in Bismarck.

Commissioner Jerry Woodcox on Monday said he thinks the county needs to get rules in place "before the PSC gets too far down that trail."


This story was written by one of our partner news agencies. Forum Communications Company uses content from agencies such as Reuters, Kaiser Health News, Tribune News Service and others to provide a wider range of news to our readers. Learn more about the news services FCC uses here.

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