Residents give a chilly reception as pipeline company makes its pitch to Tazewell County Board
A proposed carbon capture pipeline project got an icy reception among the overflow audience packing Wednesday's Tazewell County Board meeting.
Wolf Carbon Solutions and ADM want to build a 280-mile steel pipeline to transport up to 12 million metric tons of liquefied carbon dioxide per year from Cedar Rapids, Iowa to an underground storage site in Decatur. The carbon is captured from ethanol plants and other major emitters.
The pipeline would run through Tazewell County, headed southeast from the southern edge of Pekin.
The Tazewell County Board invited Wolf Carbon Solutions to present its case, after inviting pipeline opponents to the board's August meeting.
Opponents say the pipelines are unsafe and harmful to agricultural land usage. Elton Rocke of Pekin runs an anti-pipeline Facebook group with more than 2,220 members. He said carbon capture and sequestration hides carbon dioxide emissions rather than stopping them.
"They're playing a shell game," Rocke said. "And it's not profiting the people, it's profiting the big corporations and the pipeline companies. Does Illinois really want to be known as the pollution dump for carbon? I think not."
Dr. Matt Gordon is superintendent of the Rankin school district. He said the board of education there opposes the project unanimously.
"Our understanding is that the creation of this pipeline via eminent domain will pass through Rankin's property, or be located within a third of a mile south of our campus location," he said. "[The] location proposed south of us is literally a stone's throw away from where our kids play at recess. This pipeline being located on or near Rankin is not in the best interest of our district."
Many people in the audience wore anti-pipeline apparel or held up signs. But not everyone there was bearish on the project.
ADM vice president of state government relations Greg Webb said the project has a lot of positives.
"It's a twofer in the way that we see it. We get a substantial environmental benefit by capturing CO2. And we also get a pretty substantial economic development benefit as a result of that," Webb said.
He also noted that ADM has sequestered 4 million metric tons of carbon dioxide in Decatur over the past decade. He said the technology is proven and safe, and will help the state reach its goal of carbon neutrality by 2050.
The project also has the support of organized labor.
Luke Ogan is business representative of the International Union of Operating Engineers Local 649 in Peoria.
"We support this project," he said. "Wolf Carbon Solutions has signed a letter of intent stating that they will do this project 100% union."
Ogan was loudly booed by the audience as he left the podium during the public comment portion of the meeting, but a small coterie of union members were supportive.
Patrick Brierley is the vice president of engineering and operations for the Mount Simon Hub pipeline project. He touted the company's safety record in its home country of Canada, and said the pipeline will take carbon emissions equivalent to 2.5 million passenger vehicles out of the atmosphere.
He also rebuffed many of the common critiques used by pipeline opponents, including thecautionary tales of the 2020 Sartaria, Miss. pipeline rupture that led to more than 40 hospitalizations as the high CO2 concentrations cut off oxygen supply.
"We have to identify geohazards," Brierley said. "Geohazards are the big reason that incident in Mississippi happened. There was a slip as a landslide."
He said the company has already performed a geohazard analysis to determine where slopes are along the planned route. He said that while the pipeline would cross the Mahomet aquifer that supplies water for around 850,000 people, but would pass well above it, not through it.
Brierley claimed Wolf Carbon Solutions is prepared for the new federal regulations expected to come out next year. The Pipeline and Hazardous Safety Materials Administration began drafting those rules after the Sartaria disaster.
"We already have advance knowledge of what the new material requirements are going to be," he said. "It's going to be stronger pipe that is able to withstand the handling, like nicks and things like that, that the pipe will be stronger."
He said the new pipes will be able to self-arrest ductile fractures, unlike the older, more brittle material previously used. He also said Wolf will filter out water and other elements that can corrode the pipes from the inside.
He said the company will also meet with local emergency management agencies across the region the pipeline is passing through to implement a plan in case of a disaster.
Tazewell County is an intervenor in the pipeline construction application case currently before the Illinois Commerce Commission That gives the county a voice in the process, but Tazewell County Board chairman Dave Zimmerman said that may be the extent of what local government can do.
"From a board perspective, our authority over a pipeline is very, very limited, if at all," he said.
But Tremont resident Kassandra Eitenmiller challenged that stance.
"Mr. Zimmerman, I just hope that this board takes the citizens of Tazewell County and hears us and just doesn't lay down and think that there's really nothing we can do. I think having a voice and letting that voice be heard is something."
The Illinois Commerce Commission is set to make a decision on the construction application in May 2024.