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County board sets hearings on dairy manure to fuel project

The public can weigh in on a proposed cow manure conversion project and the use of pipelines in the county's right of way in Stevens County at two public hearing set by the county commissioners during the Nov. 6 meeting.

Commissioners set hearings for 7 p.m. on Thursday, Nov. 29, and 7 p.m. Monday, Dec. 17. Amp Americas has requested conditional use of the county's right of way and a conditional use permit for a manure conversion project in the county. Amp Americas is based in Chicago and works with renewable fuel projects including converting dairy manure into natural gas.

Amp wants to work with Riverview Dairy, District 45 Dairy and West River Dairy, all part of Riverview LLP, to restart manure digesters at those dairies. Converting manure from those three dairies will require about 14.1 miles of low-pressure 6-inch HDPE, or high density polyethylene pipeline in county right-of-way. Digesters at the dairies would remove sulfur dioxide from the manure. The digested material travels through a pipeline to the plant where its converted to natural gas.

County coordinator Becky Young said the natural gas would be used in Stevens County.

Carbon credits created by the conversion of dairy manure into natural gas would be sold to buyers who may be exceeding their carbon limits. Riverview and Amp are working with Camco, another renewable energy company, on the proposed project.

The proposed project would be the first of its kind in Minnesota, Minnesota Department of Transportation engineer Nathan Gannon said.

Because it's the first one in the state, the state and county are breaking some new ground.

The 14.1 miles of pipeline would carry low-pressure fuel. Because the federal government does not regulate low-pressure fuel pipelines, the county would be responsible for the oversight of the proposed pipeline.

County board chairwoman Jeanne Ennen is reluctant to have the county be the first to govern a low pressure fuel pipeline.

"I don't know about you guys. I don't know anything about pipelines," Ennen said. "I don't know if we are capable of governing pipelines."

The county won't be assuming any responsibility yet, but it does need to take steps in case it does.

Young said county attorney Aaron Jordan continues to want an ordinance that would spell out oversight responsibilities and other pieces for right-of-way use.

Also, because the board has received a petition to use the right of ways, the board is compelled to have the public hearings on the proposed project, Young said.

The state also did its own review of the project and determined that the pipeline is not for public use, Gannon said.

Amp must apply for an exemption from the state before it could use county rights of way, Gannon said.

But no exemption would happen if the county does not have the public hearings and eventually, makes a decision on the project, county officials said on Nov. 6.