Peggy Hoogestraat is a wife, mother, grandmother, farmer and rancher who also happens to be one of the most knowledgable, organized and relentless opponents of underground pipelines being built across South Dakota.
Hoogestraat’s path from gray-haired granny to grizzled anti-pipeline activist was laid in 2014 when she began a battle to protect her ranch land in Minnehaha County from becoming part of the route for the Dakota Access Pipeline.
After being sued twice, putting thousands of miles on her pickup to attend numerous meetings and hearings, spending significant sums on legal fees and holding out for as long as she could, Hoogestraat eventually succumbed to an eminent-domain ruling that forced her to allow the multi-state DAPL oil line to be buried on her land.
And then, a letter she received in the mail in 2021 — sent by Summit Carbon Solutions of Iowa — reignited her passion to prevent a pipeline from crossing that 287-acre parcel west of Hartford. This time, it was a proposed carbon-capture and sequestration pipeline that would carry CO2 across the same parcel where her son raises crops and runs cattle and where the DAPL now lies beneath the surface.
To Hoogestraat and a few hundred other eastern South Dakota landowners, the pipeline plan by Summit, and another CO2 line being proposed by Navigator Carbon Ventures, are an offense to their land and their lives.
Not only do they see the pipeline as an interference on their property rights, but they also worry about future property values and the loss of usable farmland and ranch land. They also worry that a leak could someday poison people or animals.
Certainly, some property owners along the proposed pipeline routes welcome the use of their land, and see buried pipelines as safe and unobtrusive. They likely see the lease payment for use of their land as an unexpected bonus, and will gladly accept up to three years of payments for any crop losses.
Among the many opponents, some interviewed by News Watch, the unwanted use of their land cuts deeply into their beliefs that private land is sacred, that it is part of a family’s soul spanning generations, and that it should not be interfered upon without their permission or for great cause.
“I was raised to be a steward of the land, with an understanding that it’s a gift to me while I’m here on this earth, and that I need to take the best care of it while I can,” Hoogestraat said.
Hoogestraat is also angry that the oil pipeline on her land may prevent her or future generations of her family from selling or developing the land, which is located in a high-growth suburban area west of Sioux Falls.
Hoogestraat looks back with a mix of anger, sadness and sometimes humor on how the pipeline battle changed her as a person. But there’s no question the three years of grappling with DAPL officials over use of her land, and the impacts of the digging, pipe-laying and attempts to return her land to normal, have stiffened her resolve to fight for her own land and the rights of other landowners.
During construction, her drain tile that controls water flow was damaged and had to be fixed. A group of cows were once locked away from their water source and had to be rescued.
Since oil began to flow, the pipe on her property leaked, and she was never told how much oil had seeped onto and into her land.
Hoogestraat, 65, acknowledges she is somewhat of an unexpected activist. She sometimes wonders if her determination to fight the pipelines has its roots in a successful battle she fought against breast cancer some years ago, and also in part to her strong faith in God.
“I went through cancer myself, and that was a piece of cake compared to these pipelines,” she said. “I hate to say that, but it’s true.”
Companies vow to be good stewards
Both the Summit and Navigator proposed pipelines would use carbon-capture and sequestration technology to collect carbon dioxide from ethanol plants, pressurize it into liquid form and ship it to a site where it can be pumped and held deep underground for years.
The 2,000-mile, $3.7 billion Summit Carbon Solutions pipeline would cross 469 miles in South Dakota, carrying CO2 north from 32 ethanol plants in five states to a site in central North Dakota, where the CO2 would be buried more than a mile underground.
The South Dakota portion of the Summit project was submitted for permitting to the PUC in February, and a public hearing is expected to be held before the end of 2022.
The $3 billion, 1,300-mile Navigator project would capture CO2 from 20 ethanol and fertilizer plants in five states. The Navigator pipeline would cross 62 miles in South Dakota and terminate at a site in central Illinois. Navigator plans to submit its pipeline permit application to the PUC this summer, said Elizabeth Burns-Thompson, a company spokeswoman.
Combined, company officials say, the two CCS projects would capture carbon equivalent to eliminating emissions from 5.8 million cars a year. They also point to positives such as creation of thousands of jobs, new tax revenues for states and local governments, and raised profits of ethanol plants that may be able to sell biofuels into new low-carbon markets.
During a legislative hearing on the Summit project in January, state Sen. Lee Schoenbeck, R-Watertown, said he was concerned that Summit was not being straightforward with property owners along the proposed pipeline route. At one point, Schoenbeck said, the pipeline route would have run through a proposed new development in his district and “ruined” the housing project.
After he contacted Summit, the company emailed him an hour later to tell him that the route had been moved away from the development. But Schoenbeck said the landowners were never told the route had been moved away from their properties.
“What happened in my community was not right, so they should make sure they’re doing a better job of talking to landowners,” said Schoenbeck, an attorney in Watertown.
Jake Ketzner, a spokesman for Summit, said the project is receiving strong support among regulatory officials and landowners based on its goals of removing carbon from the atmosphere and for creating thousands of new jobs.
But CO2 pipelines also benefit corn farmers across the Midwest, Ketzner testified before the South Dakota Legislature in January. Carbon-capture projects strengthen the long-range market for ethanol producers, which also provides farmers a valuable and consistent market for their corn.
“There’s folks who really support these projects for the environmental purposes, and there’s folks in our particular case who support it for what it’s going to do for agriculture and the corn markets,” he said.
Elizabeth Burns-Thompson, a spokeswoman for Navigator CO2 Ventures, said the company intends to work closely and in harmony with landowners.
She said Navigator hopes to find workable solutions for use of land that will not include eminent domain, which is a legal taking of land for public use.
“Eminent domain is not something we want to do, and it’s a tool that’s available, but we’re seeking a voluntary process,” she said.
Pipeline battle far from over
Betty Strom is a retired teacher from Sioux Falls who owns land south of Madison, S.D., that is home to part of the Dakota Access oil pipeline and is now being eyed by Summit to run its CO2 line.
Strom ultimately allowed the oil pipeline on her land before the matter reached court to avoid the costs and stress of facing eminent domain.
“There’s a lot of reasons we value our land, and when you’re out here in the middle of nowhere, you don’t expect some big outfit to come plowing through it,“ she said.
Charlie Johnson runs an organic farm on leased land near Strom’s property in southern Lake County.
Johnson said property owners nearer to municipalities may see significant future losses in land value if development is halted due to an underground pipeline crossing it.
“If your piece of property 50 years from now is a valuable site for a housing development or something, you’re out of luck,” he said.
Strom said she wrote on the bottom of her land-use survey agreement that DAPL officials should let her know when they were surveying so she could be present, and to inform her immediately if they found anything of value or historical interest on her land.
Strom never heard back from the company, but well after the survey was complete and the pipeline fully installed, she received a package in the mail. It contained a Native American spearpoint.
Peggy Hoogestraat was never formally notified of any changes in the proposed route of the Summit pipeline, but she recently looked at maps on the PUC website and now believes her land near Hartford is no longer a target of the CO2 project.
“It doesn’t change my view of the pipeline whatsoever because it’s still going to cross the land of my neighbors and friends and family members,” she said. “Maybe I can’t stop it, but at least I hope I can help the other landowners in some way, shape or form.”
— This article was produced by South Dakota News Watch, a non-profit journalism organization located online at SDNewsWatch.org.
This article originally appeared on Sioux Falls Argus Leader: Carbon capture pipelines could affect land, lives of South Dakotans