Takeaways: A possible Trump VP pick grapples with supporting a CO2 pipeline

BISMARCK, N.D. (AP) — North Dakota Gov. Doug Burgum has emerged as a serious contender to be Donald Trump’s running mate. He’s one of the president’s most loyal and vocal backers and brings executive experience, business savvy and close connections to deep-pocketed energy industry CEOs. Trump wants their money to help finance his third run for the White House.

But back home, far from the glare of the campaign trail, the two-term governor is wrestling with a $5.5 billion carbon dioxide pipeline project that has split his state and left him straddling an awkward political divide as Trump and President Joe Biden offer voters starkly different visions of how to tackle — or ignore — climate change.

A pipeline champion

Burgum is championing the CO2 pipeline, which is being financed by hundreds of investors and will be built by Summit Carbon Solutions of Ames, Iowa. The project would gather planet-warming CO2 from ethanol plants across the Midwest and permanently deposit the potentially harmful gas a mile underground in west central North Dakota.

The CO2 pipeline aligns with Biden’s push to address climate change, a position that could put Burgum at odds with Trump.

In backing the pipeline, Burgum is navigating the tricky politics of land ownership in deep-red North Dakota and of climate change inside the GOP.

While Burgum has outlined plans to make North Dakota carbon neutral by 2030, he’s steered clear of describing the pipeline or other carbon capture initiatives as environmentally friendly. Instead, he touts them as a lucrative business opportunity for North Dakota that might ultimately assist the fossil fuel industry.

“This has nothing to do with climate change,” Burgum said in early March on a North Dakota radio program. “This has to do with markets.”

Trouble at home

The blowback in North Dakota to the Summit project has been intense with Burgum caught in the crossfire. There are fears a pipeline rupture would unleash a lethal cloud of CO2. Landowners worry their property values will plummet if the pipeline passes under their land. And they’re outraged over what they allege are hardball tactics employed by Summit to secure the easements it needs for the massive project.

Kurt Swenson and his family own or have an interest in 1,750 acres at or near the proposed storage site. At a public hearing earlier this month on Summit’s permit application, Swenson said he had a warning for anyone who attempts to take his land without his consent.

“It seems like everybody wants what isn’t theirs,” Swenson said. “You’re going to end up taking it from my cold, dead hands. And you’re going to see how that works out for you.”

Summit said it has signed easement deals with landowners along 82% of the pipeline’s route in North Dakota and obtained 92% of the lease agreements needed at the storage site. The company added that the project also is supported by state lawmakers and emergency managers.

Close ties to the oil and gas industry

Oil and gas interests have donated nearly $8 million to Trump’s 2024 presidential campaign, according to the political money website Open Secrets.

Burgum, with his close ties to his state’s dominant industry, is the type of running mate who could help boost such donations.

If Burgum isn’t the GOP’s vice-presidential nominee and doesn’t land a job in a second Trump administration, he can return to North Dakota to finish out his last term, with key decisions looming for the pipeline.


Lardner reported from Washington.

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