Port: Don't be fooled by anti-carbon pipeline hype

A professional political campaign, paid for by unknown interests, has hyped consternation about the Midwest Carbon Express pipeline, giving a false impression of public sentiment.

Summit demonstration.jpeg
A few dozen landowners on Nov. 18, 2021, attend Summit Carbon Solutions' demonstration south of Beulah, North Dakota, at the site of one of the company's test wells, which will drill to around 12,000 feet to gauge the suitability of the area for carbon dioxide storage. Craig Bihrle / The Forum

MINOT, N.D. — The Midwest Express carbon pipeline has made a lot of headlines recently thanks to an organized political campaign against it.

If you're wondering who is paying the bills for that, so am I.

Is it the lawyers who are eager to run up big bills from protracted litigation?

Or the environmental activists, who think North Dakota ought to be a sandbox for wind turbines and not much else?

One partner in the campaign is the Dakota Resource Council, purportedly a land-owner group, but in reality, a front for out-of-state interests bent on doing whatever it takes to undermine North Dakota's primary industries — energy and agriculture — in the name of a very left-wing strain of environmentalism.


You'd think an environmental group would favor capturing carbon, but because the technology can make the fossil fuels industries more resilient in the modern markets, the DRC is opposed.

This political campaign, organized by lobbyist Dustin Gawrylow, has claimed that they're not "anti-pipeline," which is a strange thing to say when you're partnering up with the Dakota Resource Council, which stood with the Dakota Access Pipeline protesters.

Based on the headlines this coalition of political professionals has managed to manufacture, you'd think there's some popular grassroots uprising against the Midwest Carbon Express.

I don't think that's true. I'd argue that most North Dakotans are ambivalent, if not outright supportive. And why wouldn't they be? It's not like the Midwest Carbon Express is some novel enterprise.

North Dakota has been building pipelines for generations. Carbon pipelines aren't even all that new. Two currently operate in North Dakota, one of which has been in place for decades. "Now it’s like these are the most dangerous things in the world," Gov. Doug Burgum, a supporter of the Midwest Carbon Express, told the Bismarck Tribune of the organized political campaign against the project.

It's almost like the hysterical response to this project is contrived or something.

If we drill down on the grievances aired at a recent hearing put on by the Public Service Commission, we hear some fairly typical stuff. A lot of concern about soil disruption and compaction. Some concerns about drain tile, pipe integrity, and leaks.

But none of that is unique to this pipeline. These are the same concerns that surround every pipeline project. While that's not a reason to dismiss them, it hardly explains why this particular project has drawn so much ire, including a professional political campaign paid for by interests in the shadows.


According to Summit Carbon Solutions, they've signed 4,450 voluntary easement agreements with 2,750 landowners. Those agreements cover nearly 70% of the pipeline's route, and those numbers are growing.

Perhaps because most of these landowners know how important this project is to North Dakota.

"You can be against the pipeline if you’re against coal, you’re against oil and gas, you’re against fertilizer, if you’re against sustainable aviation fuel and you’re against agriculture in general," Burgum told the Bismarck Tribune. "If you’re against all the things that we do, then you can be against a CO2 pipeline."

Opinion by Rob Port
Rob Port is a news reporter, columnist, and podcast host for the Forum News Service. He has an extensive background in investigations and public records. He has covered political events in North Dakota and the upper Midwest for two decades. Reach him at Click here to subscribe to his Plain Talk podcast.
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