Big eminent domain problem with the carbon pipeline | State and Region

As carbon pipeline projects continue to be debated, the use of eminent domain has become a major issue in Iowa.

Summit Carbon Solutions, Navigator CO2 Ventures and Wolf Carbon Solutions/ADM each announced proposals to build underground pipelines that would transport CO2 from ethanol plants in Iowa to sequestration sites in North Dakota and Illinois. .

Eminent domain is something the three companies proposing carbon pipelines in Iowa didn’t talk much about when they tried to acquire land for their projects through voluntary easements.

But it is already one of the centers of opposition.

“These pipelines are being built by outside interests and financiers who hope to exploit the tax benefits for personal gain (which will also leave Iowa),” said Aaron Lehman of the Iowa Farmers Union. “Their claims to provide a public benefit fail to rise to the level to justify the use of eminent domain.

“If pipeline developers are unable to negotiate satisfactory agreements with landowners in their respective paths, they should abandon these projects.”

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Companies seeking to use eminent domain for carbon sequestration pipeline projects could not receive a state hearing until early next year, under a bill passed by the Iowa House March 24.

The legislation is an attempt to allay Iowa landowner concerns about the potential use of eminent domain by companies that have proposed pipeline projects. Proponents said the measure would encourage the negotiation of voluntary agreements between companies and landowners while the legislature is not in session.

Heartland Greenway, which leads one of the proposed projects, said it does not plan to use eminent domain and hopes to enter into voluntary easements to complete the process.

“We maintain a very high standard and commitment to being fantastic neighbors to the communities and landowners we serve,” the company said. “We have ongoing market research for voluntary compensation for easements in the states to confirm the modeled assumptions. Our teams are currently working on the necessary surveys of the parcels we have identified, and we expect to initiate easement negotiations with the landowners probably in May.

Jesse Harris of LS2, a Des Moines public affairs firm representing Summit, said naysayers are getting ahead. In its application to the Iowa Utilities Board, Summit requested the use of eminent domain, but said it was unsure whether it was necessary.

Sioux City’s Mike Main waved a “No Easement.” No Eminent Domain sign in the Capitol rotunda during a rally at the Statehouse on March 29. Its 80 acres of farmland in Woodbury County could be crossed by a $4.5 billion, 2,000-mile pipeline from Iowa to North Dakota proposed by Iowa-based Summit.

Main’s opposition to the pipeline, in general, is “soft.”

“But I am very much against eminent domain for the gain of private investors,” he said.

In the case of the Summit Pipeline, which could impact more than 8,000 acres of cropland, more than half of the counties along the route have filed objections.

Mahmud Fitil, the frontline action and logistics and land defense organizer for the Great Plains Action Society, said he was concerned about political ties between companies and Iowa lawmakers. .

Former Iowa Gov. Terry Branstad is an adviser to Summit Carbon Solutions, which is seeking to add a pipeline to the state, and Republican donor Bruce Rastetter heads its parent company, Summit Agricultural Solutions.

Iowa Corn Growers Association President Lance Lillibridge said the group opposes the use of eminent domain to carry out this project. He said it was important to explore all options moving forward and to ensure producers have a good understanding of what actions might occur.

“We strongly believe in the rights of individual landowners and encourage farmers to have conversations with companies and seek legal advice,” he said. “We support the use of eminent domain by government for the public good, but not for private, for-profit entities.”

Lehman said other pipelines have gone through the state and there haven’t been good results so far. Farmers have been hit by loss of income, soil damage and soil drainage disruption, he said. He also believes the pipeline won’t achieve the ultimate goal of offsetting the carbon footprint of ethanol plants as well as the companies say.

“Pipelines and deep earth burial are not the only or the best solution, but will only perpetuate an unsustainable system,” Lehman said. “There are viable solutions that do not require transporting a dangerous product through pipelines.”

With additional reporting by James Lynch of the Des Moines Gazette Bureau.