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Iowans warned of 'legislative trick' in fight against carbon pipelines

Summit Carbon Solutions has a plan to capture carbon from ethanol plants and send it to western North Dakota. Landowners are resistant to the threat of eminent domain for project and the Iowa Legislature has passed an amendment that could delay the process.

People sitting in front of of a "No CO2 Pipelines" sign.
A crowd gathered inside the Iowa capitol on Tuesday, March 29, with speakers voicing opposition to carbon pipeline companies using eminent domain to obtain right-of-way.
Courtesy / John Aspray, Food & Water Watch

DES MOINES, Iowa — A Republican lawmaker told Iowans not to be fooled by a “legislative trick” that allows legislators to appear to be against eminent domain for carbon capture pipelines but does not pin down their true position.

Rep. Jeff Shipley, a Republican from Birmingham in southeast Iowa, was referring to a March 24 vote approving an amendment that would put a temporary hold on hearings for carbon capture pipelines . Shipley noted that it was done on a voice vote.

“That was a legislative trick to cloak the actual thinkings and positions of legislators and to obfuscate that from the view of the people,” Shipley said.

Shipley’s comments came toward the end of more than two hours of speeches from landowners, environmentalists and legislators who are against the use of eminent domain to obtain right-of-way for pipeline projects developed by private companies.

Shipley said he would like to see a roll-call vote on the issue and said the 10-month moratorium that was passed does not provide adequate protection for landowners.

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Rep. Bobby Kaufmann, a Republican from Wilton, offered the amendment to an appropriations bill, House File 2565 .

There are three carbon capture pipelines in the works in Iowa. Summit Carbon Solutions is the only company that has filed for a permit with the Iowa Utilities Board.

Summit has plans for a pipeline that would capture carbon from ethanol plants in Iowa and four other states and transport the liquid carbon dioxide to North Dakota, where it would be stored underground.

Iowa Sen. Jeff Taylor, whose district is in northwest Iowa, said the delay on hearings until February 2023 does little for landowners in the path of the pipeline. With the next legislative session not starting until mid-January, “that will give us two weeks — two weeks to solve the problem. That’s not going to happen.”

Some speakers noted that moratorium would delay the issue past mid-term elections for some legislators and that the Iowa Utilities Board was unlikely to take significant action on Summit’s permit before February anyway.

Taylor, who previously offered a bill that would strip eminent domain authority from the Iowa Utilities Board, said the moratorium should be pushed back to the end of the session.

“I would like some kind of protections, at the very least, against harassment for landowners,” Taylor said.

That drew applause from the crowd, who also heard complaints from landowners about pipeline company surveyors being on their property without seeking permission. There were also concerns about safety involving the hazardous liquid carbon dioxide.

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The crowd did include representatives of labor unions who are supportive of the jobs the project would provide.

The Summit Carbon Solutions website says there would be 681 miles of pipeline in Iowa as part of the 2,000 mile, $4.5 billion project that includes four other states — Minnesota, Nebraska, North Dakota and South Dakota.

Summit says the project will benefit the environment by reducing greenhouse gas emissions and will help the ethanol industry and ag economy thrive.

In response to a request for comment on the legislative action, Summit issued this statement: “Since late last year, Summit Carbon Solutions has worked closely with Iowa landowners to create a mutually beneficial partnership. Summit has signed easements on more than 100 miles of the proposed route in Iowa. Additionally, we are currently finalizing agreements that include an additional 70 miles of the proposed route in the state. We continue to focus on securing voluntary easements to … move the project forward as scheduled.”

Summit would like to begin construction in 2023 and be operational in 2024.

Summit Carbon Solutions is an offshoot of Summit Agricultural Group, led by Bruce Rastetter, a significant donor to Republican candidates in Iowa. But speakers noted the Republican Party platform includes a stance against the right of eminent domain for private corporations.

Dan Tronchetti, a farmer from Green County, said the pipeline will hurt property values for property developers and farmers.

Tronchetti cited Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds, who delivered the Republican response to President Joe Biden’s State of the Union address. Her speech noted the Iowa state motto: “Our liberties we prize and our rights we will maintain." And this line from her speech: “You shouldn’t have to wake up and worry about the next thing your government is going to do to you, your business or your children.”

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Then Tronchetti said: “I wake up every morning. Usually my first thought is, ‘How can I convince the IUB that this hazardous liquid CO2 pipeline is a mistake for the citizens of Iowa.’”

A map of the Summit Carbon Solutions pipeline project
A map of the Summit Carbon Solutions pipeline project as it travels into Iowa, Nebraska, South Dakota, North Dakota and Minnesota.
Troy Becker / The Forum

Reach Jeff Beach at jbeach@agweek.com or call 701-451-5651 (work) or 859-420-1177.
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