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Environmental activists, Peoria community leaders backing carbon dioxide pipeline bills

Central Illinois Healthy Community Alliance's Joyce Harant speaks at a press conference about the Carbon Dioxide Transport and Storage Protection Act.
Collin Schopp
Central Illinois Healthy Community Alliance's Joyce Harant speaks at a press conference about the Carbon Dioxide Transport and Storage Protection Act.

Peoria environmental advocates and community leaders are advocating for the passage of legislation expanding regulations on the construction of carbon dioxide transport pipelines.

At a press conference Thursday, Central Illinois Healthy Community Alliance member Joyce Harant said House Bill 3119and Senate Bill 2421include protections for the communities proposed carbon dioxide pipelines would pass through.

“Our legislation would begin establishing these provisions for human health and existing property owners at all key points at the capture,” said Harant. “For the transportation, such as through the pipelines, and for the sequestration.”

Sequestration is the process of storing liquified carbon dioxide deep underground, in order to reduce carbon emissions from processes like the creation of ethanol and the burning of fossil fuels.

Measures included in the bills would place liability for pipeline accidents on the development companies, establish financial benefits for the communities near pipelines and prohibit the use of forced acquisition or eminent domain in pipeline construction.

The company Wolf Carbon Solutions is currently in talkswith BioUrja about a potential trunkline that would transport captured carbon dioxide from the BioUrja ethanol plant in South Peoria to a sequestration site in Decatur.

Community leaders like Collaborative Peoria’s Sherry Cannon, Peoria Park District President Robert Johnson, and Peoria NAACP President Marvin Hightower spoke in support of the legislation on Thursday.

Hightower is concerned about potential safety risks for the primarily Black 61605 ZIP code. He points out, according to the Peoria City/County Joint Committee on Racial Justice and Equity’s 2023 report, the area already faces substantial environmental risks.

“So we want to receive the benefits of this pipeline, if it were to go forward,” he said. “But also we want to know the safety factors ahead of time. One, how could it affect us? What can happen if something were to go wrong?”

Environmental advocates often use a 2020 pipeline failure in Satartia, Miss. as an example of the risks. The rupture forced the evacuation of 200 people and caused more than 40 hospitalizations.

The House bill has been re-referred to the Rules Committee, and the Senate bill sits in the Assignments Committee. Tracy Fox, a representative of the Illinois Clean Jobs Coalition, says the governor’s office, the attorney general and other parties are negotiating with supporters of House Bill 2202. That's an industry-backed bill creating ownership rules for the underground pore space where carbon is sequestered.

“So they're all sitting down In the room to try to take the best pieces from 3119 and combine them with pieces of the industry bill that other folks are fighting for,” said Fox. “So what we're here to do is to say, we absolutely need to get the things that protect communities like Peoria.”

It remains to be seen whether these provisions will emerge in a new compromise bill before the end of the current Illinois General Assembly session on Friday, May 19.

Collin Schopp is a reporter at WCBU. He joined the station in 2022.