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Supervisors Hear From Citizens On Proposed Zoning Changes

Nov 9, 2022 (0)

The Holt County Board of Supervisors meet in regular session on Monday, Oct. 31. The afternoon session was devoted to proposals from the Holt County Planning and Zoning commission. A public hearing was held on three topics including CO-2 Pipelines, Solar and Wind Energy.

The session was divided into three sections addressing each of the topics so as not to have the topic of discussion to sway back and forth between any of the topics.

First up was Pipeline regulations. The changes included Pipeline depth: Except for above ground piping facilities, such as mainline block valves, pump stations the pipeline will be installed and maintained at a depth that meets or exceeds the requirements of 49 CFR 195.248. All new pipelines built after the adoption of this regulation shall be maintained at a depth of at least five feet. All new pipelines shall maintain a separation distance of 400 feet from the pipe to any existing habitable structures. Said Overlay district shall be 200 feet on each side of the center line of the pipeline location. All new structures and or potable water wells shall also maintain a 200 feet separation from the overlay district.

Special Criteria for CO-2 Pipelines: All existing structures within 500 feet of the CO-2 Pipeline shall be equipped with exterior grade battery operated CO-2 detectors. Batteries beyond the initial instillation shall be the responsibility of the property owner. Crops shall be allowed to be planted in the overlay district. These provisions  shall be supplemented by any future legislation passed by the Nebraska legislature and signed into law. The construction of the pipeline shall maintain 50 feet from all known and disclosed water wells. Land Owners shall disclose all relevant water wells to the company seeking Right of way agreement.

County Clerk Cathy Pavel read a couple of letters from people unable to be at the hearing. Mike Zakrzewski wrote in touting the value of such businesses as the Grand Prairie wind farm and the tax value they provide to the county as well as their employment promises that have been fulfilled. He commented that the set back regulations in place were sufficient and that any attempts to put them further back is an attempt to shut down any further investment in the county. "I ask the supervisors to not approve these regulations based on misinformed bias's but science and fact," said Zakrzewski.

Amy Shane, former O'Neill Public School's Superintendent, commented that wind energy is clean energy and  that the school district has received $3,693,180.16 in name plate capacity taxes.  

The mayor of Norfolk wrote in on the positive effects of solar and commented on how the county should not put in rules that say we are not open for business and be open to new projects as well as respecting land owner rights. 

Dr. Randall of Atkinson was the first speaker. Randall said that if there was an explosion like in Mississippi that there will be dead people within 500 feet of the pipeline. He also said it should not be just for CO2 but for a methane pipeline. He also stated that there should be a resolution that any pipeline should use land that is only volunteered for use and no eminent domain should be used.

Diane Steskal from Stuart was the next speaker, she wondered what are the  economic benefits to the land owner and ethanol plants. How much C02 is released from the ethanol plant, is this project worth the risk to the land and the people and why the perpetual easement and like Randall the easements should be voluntary.

Jesse Walmar of Green Plains in Atkinson said, "This is a huge benefit to our business. We employee a lot of people and use about 20 million bushels of corn. This will make it a lot easier for us as far as the carbon issues in other states and will help to provide our other products."

Seth Harder of Husker Ag, the ethanol plant in Plainview, was next. Harder stated that the plant in Plainview puts about 900 tons a day of C02 into the air. He said by taking this out of the air and putting it into the pipeline, the actual corn plants can then take the C02 from other sources like fossil fuels in the atmosphere to use. By having this product and promoting ethanol it shows our industry is net neutral. I wonder why the people in this project worried about the environment why you would be worried about the biggest environmental project there has ever seen." said Harder.

Brent Niece of Sumit, the project  contractor, said "We have 45 percent  of the land for the project in Holt County and that's 2.7 million dollars paid to land owners today. We will end up paying 1.5 million in taxes in the county. The pipeline going through the county is a 6 inch pipe. This is not new technology there are around 5000 CO2 pipelines in America right now. After the tax credit is used up we need the perpetual easement because the ethanol plants will need us. Pipeline problems are very rare and the Mississippi incident was not a CO2 pipeline entirely. We are federally regulated for building and the entire life cycle of the pipeline."

The 400 feet barrier was also discussed. We thought the 400 setback for a dwelling was necessary to keep everybody back from building on or near the pipeline and 50 feet from a well for a carbon pipeline. 

Supervisor Dustin Breiner asked if the standard pipeline regulations would cover the smaller 6 inch CO2 pipeline. Mary Kazor from the zoning committee said that they will be making changes and regulations for the smaller pipeline as well.

The next item was Solar, the zoning board explained that this was a new game to them and that the regulations were anything more than 20 acres has to have a conditional use permit and it must be a half a mile in case there is the potential for glare. Also that all new solar projects need to notify them for the fire department safety so that the departments are aware of any potential dangers.

The next item was the wind energy regulations. The wind energy did have a few opponents on hand discussing their residential problems. Most of the opposition wanted the new regulations of 6,000 feet setback. The opposition quoted setback regulations of other county's with stiff setbacks. 

Keith May, a resident of Holt County who lives in the Grand Prairie Wind Farm Project area, said that he felt when our regulations went in we did not have sufficient data on making the right decisions for our regulations. May said he would like to see a mile set back.

Steve Boshart disagreed with the proposal stating that in the future his relatives may want the choice to have a future project on their land and this proposed regulation would not give those people that option to choose if they want a tower on their land and the potential economic benefits that it could provide.

Dave Wright talked to the crowd on how these proposed regulations are just shutting out business from ever coming if you go through with this proposal on wind energy setback you are denying people their right to do with their land as they see fit.

The crowd had a couple of more speakers touting how windmills are ugly and have ruined their acreage and their favorite hunting spots. The board took a break and then decided to table the decision until the next supervisor meeting on Nov. 16.


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