Groups choose Fort Dodge for Summit pipeline hearing

The Iowa Utilities Board has yet to set a date for the permit hearing

By: - April 12, 2022 5:33 pm

Summit Carbon Solutions provided an initial map to the Iowa Utilities Board that showed a proposed liquid carbon pipeline that would span more than 700 miles in Iowa. (Iowa Utilities Board)

Fort Dodge should be the location of the Iowa Utilities Board hearing to consider a proposed liquid carbon pipeline that would span about 680 miles across the northwestern half of the state, the pipeline company and an anti-pipeline group agree.

Summit Carbon Solutions is one of three companies to propose such a pipeline — which would transport captured carbon emissions from ethanol plants and other agricultural facilities to be sequestered underground in other states — and is the only one so far to file a permit application.

The IUB is preparing to set a schedule that will culminate with a hearing on the plan, and it recently sought input on where to hold the permit hearing. Iowa law requires such a hearing to be located at the midpoint of the project to allow affected landowners and others to participate.

The law does not specifically say that the hearing must be held in a county where the pipeline would be built, and the board has considered holding it in a county away from the primary pipeline route, according to its solicitation of input on the location.

“Because of the configuration of the proposed pipeline, with one primary line and several trunk lines, the midpoint of this proposed pipeline is not as easily determined as it would be if the line were only a single line,” the board wrote last month.

In a Tuesday meeting, there was a general consensus among stakeholders who spoke that the hearing should be in Fort Dodge.

Bret Dublinske, representing Summit, said the city is close enough to the geometric center of the sprawling pipeline route and is in Webster County, which contains part of the proposed pipeline.

“There’s just no upside to having that issue hanging out there as one that somebody potentially may challenge,” he said of the question about whether the hearing should be in a county along the pipeline route.

Wallace Taylor, representing the Sierra Club’s Iowa Chapter, agreed that Fort Dodge, with a population of about 25,000, has the facilities and amenities to host the hearing. That includes an airport that can accommodate out-of-state witnesses, he said.

“If you look at the entire pipeline system, Webster County does fill the bill,” said Taylor, whose group opposes the project. “It’s far enough north that it’s convenient to the mainline of the pipeline system, yet it’s also far enough south. It’s at least within some reasonable distance from the southwest Iowa counties where that one trunk line extends.”

Iowa Farm Bureau also said Webster County was the best choice.

The hearing for the Dakota Access oil pipeline in 2015 was held in Boone — an easily established midpoint along the linear route — and took place over the course of several weeks, according to IUB documents.

It’s unclear when the board will set the location and date for the Summit hearing. Summit has yet to finalize its eminent domain requests, which is required before the hearing is scheduled, said Don Tormey, a spokesperson for the board.

Further, there is pending legislation that would prohibit the board from holding the hearing before Feb. 1, 2023. The Iowa House approved the moratorium as part of a budget bill last month, but the bill is stalled in the Senate. Supporters of the moratorium have said it gives landowners temporary relief from the threat of eminent domain.

Summit has finalized or is in the process of finalizing easement agreements with landowners for about a quarter of the project’s reach in Iowa, the company said recently. It’s not yet clear how much of the project would require eminent domain to force those agreements. The company has already paid more than $25 million to willing landowners to use their property for the pipeline, the Le Mars Daily Sentinel reported.

The pipeline projects intend to capitalize on federal tax incentives for carbon sequestration that are meant to curb greenhouse gas emissions. The environmental advocacy group Food & Water Watch recently estimated that the three projects could net more than $20 billion in federal money over the course of 12 years.

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Jared Strong
Jared Strong

Senior reporter Jared Strong has written about Iowans and the important issues that affect them for more than 15 years, previously for the Carroll Times Herald and the Des Moines Register.