Exposé Reveals the Financial Interests Backing the Midwest Carbon Express and Their Political Connections Amidst Growing Opposition to the CO2 Pipeline
---FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE---
November 8, 2022; 6:00 AM PT
A new exposé unmasks the powerful political and financial forces backing the Midwest Carbon Express — and their close ties to the fossil fuel and ethanol industry — driving the project despite massive opposition.
A large and diverse coalition of Indigenous groups, farmers, and environmentalists is pushing back against the largest carbon capture and storage (CCS) project in the world — a false solution to the climate crisis.
Led by Iowa-based Summit Carbon Solutions and its founder Bruce Rastetter, the pipeline would stretch over 2,000 miles across Iowa, Minnesota, Nebraska, South Dakota, and North Dakota, where CO2 would be injected and stored underground.
The investigation raises serious questions about the independence of the Iowa Utilities Board, which will decide whether to grant eminent domain for Summit to seize land for the pipeline, after the company failed to obtain voluntary easements from the landowners.
Oakland, CA — As a coalition of Indigenous groups, farmers, and environmentalists pushes back against the largest carbon capture and storage (CCS) project in the world, a new exposé from the Oakland Institute, The Great Carbon Boondoggle: Inside the Struggle to Stop Summit’s CO2 Pipeline, unmasks the billion-dollar financial interests and high-level political ties driving the Midwest Carbon Express. Led by Summit Carbon Solutions, the project intends to build a 2,000-mile pipeline to carry CO2 across Iowa, Minnesota, Nebraska, South Dakota, and North Dakota, to eventually inject and store it underground in North Dakota.
Having failed to persuade enough landowners in Iowa to sign voluntary easements to construct the pipeline, Summit now seeks to obtain the land through eminent domain, which will be decided by the three-member Iowa Utilities Board (IUB). “There are legitimate concerns about the independence of the IUB given the connections each member has to Summit and its CEO, Bruce Rastetter,” said Frederic Mousseau, Policy Director at the Oakland Institute. “Though they are officially mandated to ensure Iowans benefit from infrastructure projects, members of the IUB have a troubling history of supporting controversial projects, including the Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL), with dubious positive outcomes for the state,” said Mousseau.
The web of political connections linking Summit and the Iowa Utilities Board
Summit claims that the project will capture, transport, and store 12 million metric tons of CO2 from its 32 bioethanol plants annually — the equivalent of taking 2.6 million cars off the road each year. “Despite Summit’s lofty promises, citizens across the Midwest are not hoodwinked by its rhetoric. It benefits billionaire investors at the expense of communities and land,” said Andy Currier, Research Associate at the Oakland Institute.
“A close examination of the investors — a number of them with a history of failed ventures and illicit financial conduct — reveals powerful entities who stand to make large gains from the project. Furthermore, despite Summit’s claims that the pipeline ‘will be good for our environment,’ several of them are embroiled in the fossil fuel industry,” said Currier. Key investors include TPG Rise Climate Fund (US$300 million); Continental Resources, Inc (US$250 million); Tiger Infrastructure Partners (US$100 million); and the South Korean firm SK E&S (US$110 million). Deere & Company, Summit Agriculture Group, and partner ethanol plants have also invested undisclosed amounts.
Summit pursued landowners in Iowa to sign voluntary easements and cede parts of their land for the Midwest Carbon Express. “Farmers have rejected Summit’s offers as they do not trust the promises it is making. Consequently, it has acquired only about 40 percent of the land needed for the pipeline route in Iowa and has now allegedly resorted to harassment — with land agents threatening farmers that their land will be taken by eminent domain,” said Currier.
Summit also faces formidable opposition from Indigenous communities, who were not meaningfully consulted — all too familiar with the devastation such projects bring. They are alarmed by the influx of transient pipeline construction workers. “Man-camps” built to house out-of-state workers for large construction, fossil fuel, or natural resource extraction projects in the past, increased violence towards Indigenous communities, especially women. The report highlights other concerns that the project poses on tribal reservations and Indigenous communities living near the pipeline route, including land degradation, disturbance to sacred sites, and the threat of a pipeline rupture. Commitment to protect the land and their communities is driving the mobilization of Indigenous communities.
Finally, the report exposes that Summit Carbon Solutions’ economic profitability relies heavily on federal tax credits, grants and loans, and state-led incentives like low-carbon fuel markets. “Whereas Summit boasts about the project’s contribution to tax revenue, claiming it will pay US$371 million in federal, state, and local taxes between 2022 and 2024, it will actually claim over US$1 billion in 45Q tax credits annually — or US$12 billion over a 12-year period. Recent federal legislation — including the Inflation Reduction Act and the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act — pours money into carbon sequestration projects as a key strategy to reduce emissions. Although ethanol is at least 24 percent more carbon-intensive than gasoline, this flow of public money effectively subsidizes both the fossil fuel and ethanol industries to produce more fuel,” said Mousseau.
If the Midwest Carbon Express is eventually built, residents across the Midwest will bear the risks associated with the pipeline – potential leaks and ruptures, decreased property and crop values, increased violence against the Indigenous — while Summit Carbon Solutions, its financial backers, and Bruce Rastetter will reap the profits. “Storing carbon underground literally sweeps the dust under the rug while impeding the necessary transition to truly sustainable solutions to the climate crisis. As the COP27 gets underway, the US government must make a decisive shift to decarbonize economy rather than cater to the same interests that are responsible for the crisis,” concluded Mousseau.