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ESDA leader wants more public safety assurances from pipeline company

Rich Egger
McDonough County ESDA Director Edgar Rodriguez. “A CO2 pipeline is a totally different beast for us to tackle when it comes to a hazardous pipeline."

Edgar Rodriguez, Director of the Emergency Services and Disaster Agency for McDonough County, neither supports nor opposes the proposed CO2 pipeline that could run through the county.

But he is concerned that local emergency responders are not trained or equipped to deal with a potential leak from such a pipeline.

“A CO2 pipeline is a totally different beast for us to tackle when it comes to a hazardous pipeline,” Rodriguez said.

He noted that if the highly pressurized liquid is released, it would convert into a gas that acts as an asphyxiant.

Rodriguez said crude oil and natural gas pipelines already run through the region. But he said those are not as highly pressurized as the CO2 pipeline would be. In addition, the oil and gas can be smelled if they leak from pipes but that’s not the case with CO2.

Navigator CO2 Ventures, which wants to build the pipeline, has said it will help equip and train local responders.

But Rodriguez wants a firm commitment in writing. And he wants it to be more than a one-time thing.

He noted personnel at the county’s fire stations is bound to change through the years. He said the company should provide regular equipment upgrades and annual training throughout the decades-long life of the pipeline.

“I don’t just want the promise of a one-time training or purchase of equipment because this equipment is to be maintained as well. So this is an additional cost to all these volunteer fire departments and first responders of our community,” Rodriguez said.

“Hopefully we never have to deal with this. But I work in the business of the ‘what if.’ We have to prepare and since we’re not going to be dealing with this on a regular basis, it’s imperative that we actually have these recurring trainings on an annual basis.”

Rodriguez is also concerned because Navigator still has not told him exactly where in the county the pipeline will be built.

Navigator’s plan is to capture carbon dioxide from biofuel plants in five states, convert it to a liquid, and pump it through a pipeline to an underground storage site in central Illinois.

The Illinois Commerce Commission must approve the project before Navigator can move head in Illinois.

Tri States Public Radio produced this story.  TSPR relies on financial support from our readers and listeners in order to provide coverage of the issues that matter to west central Illinois, southeast Iowa, and northeast Missouri. As someone who values the content created by TSPR's news department please consider making a financial contribution.

Rich is TSPR's News Director.