Carbon pipelines haunt effort to regulate hydrogen
Lawmakers fear they could be setting up future Legislature for acrimony as measure passes
PIERRE – The specter of the carbon pipeline debate made its presence felt Tuesday, as snakebit lawmakers questioned the desire of the Public Utilities Commission to expand its regulatory powers.
Ultimately, a bill that would allow the PUC to regulate hydrogen pipelines passed the Senate Commerce and Energy Committee. But only by 5-3, with key Senate leaders voting against the bill, signaling that it might have trouble on the Senate floor. The resistance in the Senate committee came after the same bill flew through the full House on a 66-3 vote.
PUC Commissioner Chris Nelson, who presented the bill, said following its brush with defeat that he wasn’t surprised, even after meeting so little resistance in the House.
“This is a different committee, a different thought process,” he said.
Indeed, the same committee last year killed an effort that would have stopped carbon pipeline companies from using eminent domain, a main point of contention for many landowners who oppose the projects. Tuesday, Senate President Pro Tempore Lee Schoenbeck, who defended carbon pipelines last year as a means to protect the state’s ethanol industry, questioned whether adding hydrogen pipelines to the list of regulated entities was setting up future lawmakers for the same problem.