Representative Karla Lems testify against Navigator CO2 project

FORT PIERRE, S.D. (KELOLAND) — A state legislator was the first of more than a half-dozen landowners Tuesday who told the South Dakota Public Utilities Commission why they don’t want Navigator’s proposed carbon-dioxide line to be permitted anywhere in the state.

Republican Rep. Karla Lems from rural Canton spent several hours on the witness stand. She was the prime sponsor of HB1133, which sought to ban carbon-dioxide from being defined as a common carrier under certain circumstances and, in turn, make a project no longer eligible to use eminent domain to force access through a property. The House of Representatives approved her bill, but a Senate committee killed it.

Lems’ testimony followed hours of explanation from a Navigator-affiliated official about safety steps that the company plans to take for the line. Lems said she hadn’t heard anything that reduced her concern. “It literally could wipe somebody out,” she said.

Lems said she tried to sell at auction some agricultural-zoned property in Lincoln County that carry what’s known as ‘housing eligibility.’ In Lincoln County, that eligibility would allow a house to be built on each 40-acre tract. The property was withdrawn from the market after attracting bids that were lower-priced than she expected.

Meanwhile, other properties without the prospect of what she described as a hazardous pipeline sold for higher amounts. Lens said she concluded that a potential CO2 pipeline hurt the market value of her properties.

Navigator wants to run about 13,000 feet of CO2 pipeline through other pieces of property that her family owns. She said the family leases its agricultural land to various tenants who pay according to productivity. “Therefore we’re taking land out of productivity. It’s less money for us. It’s less money for him,” Lems said.

Under cross-examination, Lems told Melanie Carpenter, one of Navigator’s attorneys from Sioux Falls, that she hadn’t tried to negotiate any easement terms or crop-damage payments with Navigator. Lems denied she was waiting for the PUC to decide whether to grant the permit.

Lems acknowledged that the Northern natural-gas pipeline runs through some of the family’s farm ground. She said the property was insured and farming took place over the line. One of her estimated 10-plus tenants had told he wouldn’t farm over a Navigator easement, she said.

She didn’t know how much of the corn that tenants grow on her family’s ground was sold to ethanol plants. Navigator plans to collect CO2 from the Valero ethanol plant at Aurora and POET ethanol plants at Chancellor and Hudson. The CO2 would be shipped to Illinois for disposal.

Read the full story at