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Conclusion: A possible Trump vice presidential candidate struggles with support for a CO2 pipeline

BISMARCK, N.D. (AP) — North Dakota Gov. Doug Burgum is considered a serious candidate for Donald Trump's vice presidency. He is one of the president's most loyal and vocal supporters and brings leadership experience, business acumen and close ties to wealthy energy industry CEOs whose money Trump is hoping to use to finance his third run for the White House.

But at 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 divided his state and put him in a difficult political position as Trump and President Joe Biden present voters with starkly different visions of how to combat — or ignore — climate change.

A pipeline champion

Burgum is an advocate of the carbon pipeline, which is being funded by hundreds of investors and being built by Ames, Iowa-based Summit Carbon Solutions. The project would collect climate-warming CO2 from Midwest ethanol plants and permanently deposit the potentially harmful gas a mile underground in midwestern North Dakota.

The carbon pipeline is consistent with Biden's efforts to address climate change – a position that could lead to conflict between Burgum and Trump.

In supporting the pipeline, Burgum must navigate the thorny political hurdles of land ownership in deep-red North Dakota and climate change within the Republican Party.

While Burgum has outlined plans to make North Dakota carbon neutral by 2030, he avoids calling the pipeline or other carbon capture initiatives environmentally friendly, instead touting them as a lucrative business opportunity for North Dakota that could ultimately benefit the fossil fuel industry.

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

Trouble at home

Opposition to the Summit project is fierce in North Dakota, and Burgum has found himself caught in the crossfire. There are fears that a pipeline burst could release a deadly cloud of CO2. Landowners fear that the value of their property could drop if the pipeline runs under their land. And they are outraged by the allegedly tough tactics Summit is using to try to obtain the easements needed for the massive project.

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

“It seems like everyone wants what isn't theirs,” Swenson said. “In the end, you're going to take it from my cold, dead hands. And you're going to see how that works out for you.”

Summit said it has signed easements with landowners along 82 percent of the pipeline's route in North Dakota and has received 92 percent of the leases needed for the storage site. The company added the project also has support from state lawmakers and the Emergency Management Agency.

Close ties to the oil and gas industry

According to political money website Open Secrets, oil and gas companies have donated nearly $8 million to Trump's 2024 presidential campaign.

Burgum is the type of vice presidential candidate who could help boost such donations because of his close ties to his state's most important industry.

If Burgum does not become the Republican vice presidential candidate and does not get a job in a second Trump administration, he can return to North Dakota and finish his last term there, where important decisions regarding the pipeline will then be pending.

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Lardner reported from Washington.

Anna Harden

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