• Ben Szalinski
    MAY 28, 2024


    Groups agree to bill to place temporary moratorium on pipelines with new state regulations

    Rep. Ann Williams (D-Chicago) speaks in the House Energy and Environment Committee on Friday. [Ben Szalinski/The Daily Line] 

    The General Assembly approved an agreement between businesses and environmental groups to strictly regulate carbon pipeline construction in Illinois while providing a pathway to allow pipeline construction in a few years.  

    The House voted 78-29 on Saturday followed by the Senate voting 43-12 on Sunday to pass a bill (SB1289) that places up to a two-year moratorium on carbon pipeline construction while implementing new regulations on permitting and land use. The bill introduced on Friday morning now awaits Gov. JB Pritzker’s review, whose office was involved in discussions.  

    “It one of many tools to address the climate crisis,” bill sponsor Rep. Ann Williams (D-Chicago) said during the House Energy and Environment Committee on Friday.  

    The bill puts a moratorium on pipeline construction until July 2026, unless the federal Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration establishes regulations before then. It then sets a strict permitting process whereby the Illinois Commerce Commission can give approval for projects if all federal permits have been applied for, two public meetings that were open to all residents within two miles of the proposed pipeline have been held and an emergency operations plan has been submitted.   

    The bill also sets annual fees and a per-mile fee for pipelines, creates new environmental regulations about carbon release into the air and requires the Illinois Emergency Management Agency to provide local first responders with training related to pipelines and carbon sequestration.   

    Carbon capture and sequestration (CCS) takes carbon from a manufacturing source and transports it to wells where it is stored more than a mile underground. Illinois is uniquely positioned to store carbon underground because of a safe layer of rock in Central Illinois. ADM in Decatur has been involved in carbon storage for more than a decade.   

    “Carbon capture and sequestration is a safe and proven technology,” said Illinois Manufacturers’ Association CEO Mark Denzler  

    Carbon sequestration has been a tense issue in many downstate communities as companies have proposed building pipelines that capture carbon dioxide and transport it somewhere else to be stored. A pipeline originating in South Dakota and ending southeast of Springfield proposed by Navigator CO2 was halted last year because of regulatory issues. Many residents also opposed the pipeline.    

    Companies seeking to build pipelines to transport carbon across Illinois’ farmland were met with severe pushback over environmental concerns and from landowners who objected to having a pipeline built through their fields.   

    “I get very nervous when a company is going to put a pipeline in Illinois,” Rep. Diane Blair-Sherlock (D-Villa Park) said. “That company decided to pull back and not do the pipeline, but the problem was we have nothing right now. So it’s my understanding that somebody could put a pipeline in Illinois and there’s nothing that we can do about it.”  

    Appropriate regulations must be implemented to allow Illinois to engage in CCS safely, according to environmentalists.   

    “Without this bill, Illinois is unprepared and not adequately protected from the growing interest from industry to pursue CCS here,” said Christine Nannicelli from the Sierra Club.    

    After several bills on CCS were introduced this year, the bill passed over the weekend represents an agreement with business and environmental groups.   

    “This is a long and tough negotiation and it’s fair to say that nobody’s thrilled,” Denzler said. “Each side had to make concessions to get where we are today.” 

    But the bill’s protections for landowners aren’t good enough, according to agriculture officials. The bill continues to allow eminent domain, which the Farm Bureau opposes.  

    “It must be done in a way that protects private property rights,” Farm Bureau Director of Business and Regulatory Affairs Bill Bodine said.  

    Williams countered that the bill still includes protections if a landowner says no to eminent domain. The pipeline company would have to go before the Department of Natural Resources for permission, hold hearings and make a fair market value offer for the land.  

    “We’re trying to make the process as fair as can be while still incentivizing people to participate in the project,” Williams said.   

    Several lawmakers in both parties had concerns, including Central Illinois Republicans worrying that the bill lacks protections for the Mahomet Aquifer. The aquifer stretches from the Indiana state line across Central Illinois to the Illinois River and provides drinking water to more than 800,000 residents.   

    “We have to ask ourselves why did we not get a restriction on the Mahomet Aquifer,” Rep. Brandun Schweizer (R-Danville) said. “It was mentioned that the environmental groups in committee wanted to have a restriction on this aquifer, but they could not come to an agreement ... We tell companies all the time what they can and can’t do ... Until we can get a restriction on the Mahomet Aquifer, I am going to be a no [vote].”  

    Williams explained her legislation includes a second water permit in addition to a federal permit and added it’s important for lawmakers act to impose regulations now because there are pending applications for wells and pipelines around the aquifer. Rep. Carol Ammons (D-Urbana) disagreed with her Republican Central Illinois colleagues and said she’s confident there are enough layers of protection for the aquifer.   

    With their districts being most impacted by the legislation, the Republicans were not thrilled about being excluded from negotiations.   

    “This affects every district, especially in Central and Southern Illinois, and Republican legislators should’ve been at the table,” Rep. Amy Elik (R-Godfrey) said in committee.   

    "I promise you this is going to be one of the hardest votes I have to take today,” Rep. Jason Bunting (R-Emington) said.  

    Republican Reps. Jeff Keicher (R-Sycamore), Nicole La Ha (R-Homer Glen), Jennifer Sanalitro (R-Hanover Park), Kevin Schmidt (R-Millstadt), Patrick Sheehan (R-Lockport), Ryan Spain (R-Spain), Brad Stephens (R-Rosemont), and Dan Ugaste (R-Geneva) voted for the bill.   

    In the Senate, Republican Sens. Tom Bennet (R-Gibson City), John Curran (R-Downers Grove), Don DeWitte (R-St. Charles), Seth Lewis (R-Bartlett), Dan McConchie (R-Hawthorn Woods), Sue Rezin (R-Morris), and Jil Tracy (R-Quincy) voted for the bill.   

    But there’s also urgency to pass something to ensure the industry doesn’t go mostly unregulated any longer, Williams said. Federal grants are also on the table.  

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