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McDonough County declines payment offer from pipeline company

For now, McDonough County won’t consider a monetary offer from Navigator Heartland Greenway, which wants to build a carbon dioxide pipeline through the region.

The company offered the county $600,000 a year for 30 years in exchange for cooperation on the pipeline.

County leaders received the proposal on Jan. 27, about four months after the county board approved a two-year moratorium on the construction of pipelines.

The board’s Law and Legal Committee this week agreed to discuss the proposal but not vote on it.

“Who wouldn’t want $18 million?” said committee chairperson Joe Erlandson. But he added that he cannot reverse his vote from October simply because money was offered.

“I was against the project in my vote last fall. Really nothing’s changed other than money being offered now.”

Erlandson said the committee agreed to publicly discuss the offer in the interest of transparency. He noted the offer could still come up for a vote in the future.

A standing room only crowd attended the meeting.

Union laborers spoke in favor of the project and the jobs it would bring during construction.

Others, such as Terri Frisbie, raised concerns.

She said farmers have an expression called ramming. It’s when a little too much energy and pressure is put into the work you’re doing, and you end up driving the tractor a little too hard or pushing grain through an auger a little too fast.

As a result, someone could get hurt, something could get broken, or you might overlook something important.

“And that’s how we think about the pipeline process to date. We feel that Navigator is trying to ram the project through and not fully go through a fair process,” she said.

Frisbie said CO2 pipelines have not been properly vetted for safety by the state and federal governments. She said that needs to be done before anything else can happen regarding the project.

Opponents often cite a CO2 pipeline rupture in Mississippi as an example of the safety hazards the projects pose.

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.

The company has made a motion to withdraw its original petition and replace it with a new one. But McDonough County State’s Attorney Matt Kwacala said it’s still a live petition, and will remain so until a judge signs an order dismissing it.

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.