Renewable Natural Gas – A New Opportunity for South Dakota

March 1, 2022 – Some South Dakota dairy farms are availing themselves of a new opportunity to add income for their operations while improving their environmental footprint through the production of renewable natural gas. These dairies are installing manure digesters that help turn manure into methane which is captured and sold into the natural gas market.

This has a three-fold impact. The renewable natural gas generates additional farm income, methane is captured instead of released into the atmosphere, and the renewable natural gas supplements existing natural gas supplies to be consumed in South Dakota.

The Public Utilities Commission identified a safety concern with this new opportunity and worked with the legislature to resolve the issue through SB40. These methane digesters frequently utilize a new pipeline from the dairy farm to wherever the nearest existing natural gas transmission line is located to transport the renewable natural gas. These new pipelines are not currently regulated at either the state or federal level even though they carry hazardous materials.

SB 40 will require the pipeline to have markers so that the location is easily identifiable and requires notification of the local county emergency manager, fire departments, ambulance services, and neighbors about the location and contents of the new pipeline. These measures will keep the pipe safe from future excavation activities and assist first responders and neighbors should a leak ever occur.

SB40 which received unanimous approval in the legislature is an example of my work on the PUC to provide common sense protections for South Dakota while encouraging new economic opportunities for the state.