Measure regulating carbon capture pipelines passes Illinois General Assembly

Legislators are concerned drinking water could be compromised if there’s a pipeline rupture.

The Mahomet Aquifer may have a carbon pipeline drill right above it if Senate Bill 1289 is enacted by Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker.

Legislators are concerned the drinking water could be compromised if there’s a pipeline rupture. The bill’s sponsor said there are additional steps needed in order to get a pipeline approved to go over an aquifer.

In the final few days of legislative session in Springfield, state Rep. Ann Williams, D-Chicago, gutted a bill that originally dealt with dental insurance. Senate Bill 1289, now amended, seeks to allow the Illinois Commerce Commission to create and approve carbon sequestration pipelines. Williams was questioned why the aquifer isn’t protected in this measure.

“I wouldn’t be sponsoring a bill that I felt jeopardized the drinking water of the Mahomet aquifer,” said Williams. “In the worst case scenario, it would be an expansion of carbon dioxide to about 300-500 feet from the space, this doesn’t just fill the whole aquifer. Even in a worse case scenario, it’s not catastrophic for the aquifer and there are normal remediation efforts to clean it up just like there are remediation efforts for any source of pollution that goes into the aquifer.”

The bill included a statewide moratorium on construction of carbon dioxide pipelines for two years or until the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration has adopted revised federal safety standards, whichever comes first. State Rep. Dan Caulkins, R-Decatur, raised concerns about the aquifer and the fact that eminent domain is still included in the bill.

“We talk about environmental issues but in these negotiations we’re not even able to secure protections for one of the most important water sources in Central Illinois,” said Caulkins.

The original bill concerning carbon sequestration, House Bill 569, remains in committee.

The Illinois Farm Bureau says the bill concerning the construction of carbon sequestration pipelines does not protect private property rights.

During a House committee, Bill Bodine, director of business and regulatory affairs at Illinois Farm Bureau, said their policy supports prohibiting the use of eminent domain.

“Senate Bill 1289 continues to authorize the use of eminent domain for carbon dioxide pipelines. Our policy also supports requiring developers of carbon pipelines and storage projects to demonstrate progress securing easements from willing landowners prior to the ICC’s approval of a pipeline project," said Bodine. "This would help ensure the developers of these projects are negotiating in good faith. This bill includes no such requirement.”

Bodine made mention of the original bill that dealt with carbon sequestration and said the bureau was in support of HB569 because it had nothing to do with pipelines. Fast forward to the end of session, SB1289 is a pipeline bill, according to Bodine.

“Carbon sequestration is one thing and carbon pipelines are another,” said Bodine.

Williams, the House sponsor, said Friday pipelines are regulated on a federal level, that’s why she couldn’t get rid of the eminent domain in the bill.

“Obviously pipelines are regulated at a federal level because it’s an interstate matter. We can’t have limited ability to regulate pipelines. You heard a reference to PHMSA rules, those are the federal rules that govern hazardous material pipelines. Right now those rules are pending, if we don’t see those rules in two years, the ICC will be able to engage in a process to set standards. Eminent domain exists for pipelines. There really isn’t any other way to run pipelines across the state,” said Williams.

On the House floor Saturday, state Rep. Chris Miller, R-Oakland, said reducing carbon will damage "green things," and he implied that the whole idea about capturing carbon was the bull manure.

“I raise cattle and a lot of bulls," Miller said. "After listening to a lot of this climate stuff, my ‘BS’ meter is going ding, ding, ding! We are having a crisis of common sense. Why are we capturing CO2?”

Opponents argue the carbon capturing process will create more carbon because in order to store carbon, there’s a cleaning process that takes up a lot of energy.

“This week I planted 15,000 plants to capture CO2,” said Miller.

The bill passed the House Saturday.

In the Senate Sunday, passions boiled over. State Sen. Chapin Rose, R-Mahomet, discussed harms already done to the water supply for his constituents after a natural gas leak there and no funding from the state to clean it up. He had to apologize for using profanity on the floor, saying the carbon pipeline measure will put his constituents in harms way.

"This is not funny. This is not funny," Rose yelled. "I don't want to hear a damn thing from anybody about cleaning up the f*****g environment."

Despite the concerns, the measure cleared the Senate Sunday. It can now be sent to the governor’s desk for further action.

Greg Bishop contributed to this report.