Utilities board to proceed with pipeline permit scheduling

By: - August 16, 2022 2:34 pm

Geri Huser, the chairperson of the Iowa Utilities Board, is one of three people who will decide whether liquid carbon pipelines can be built in Iowa. (Photo by Jared Strong/Iowa Capital Dispatch)

State regulators are poised to hold a scheduling conference that will guide the rest of the permit process for Summit Carbon Solutions, which seeks to build about 680 miles of liquid carbon pipeline in the state.

An Iowa Utilities Board attorney said during a Tuesday board meeting that a proposed order is forthcoming. The meeting will allow the company, affected landowners and others to discuss deadlines for testimony and interventions, potential dates for the permit hearing and when the company will finalize its requests for eminent domain.

Since early last week, Summit has been submitting its lists of landowners who have declined to grant easements for the project, whose land might be subject to eminent domain. As of Monday, the list included dozens of parcels in 11 counties, including Cherokee, Chickasaw, Crawford, Fremont, Greene, Hancock, Ida, Lyon, Plymouth, Pottawattamie and Sioux. Those filings are publicly available at the IUB’s website.

“They’re going to go through and do an initial pass with ones that they’re going to request eminent domain over,” said Hunter Fors, an IUB attorney, “and then they might come back and do a second, third, fourth, and at some point in time they will eventually have all parcels in a county that they are seeking eminent domain for.”

Summit said recently it has obtained permission from landowners for about 40% of the pipeline route in Iowa, which is mostly in western and northern areas of the state. The pipeline would connect to ethanol plants, where captured carbon dioxide would be compressed into a liquid and transported to North Dakota to be pumped deep into the ground.

Summit’s project is one of three carbon pipeline proposals in Iowa, although it is the only company so far to officially file for a permit. Navigator CO2 Ventures is set to hold another round of public meetings starting next week in counties where its route — the primary line of which bisects the state from northwest to southeast — has changed. Wolf Carbon Solutions has meetings set late this month in five eastern Iowa counties.

Those meetings are required before they can petition for a permit, a process that culminates with a multiday hearing that includes the consideration of eminent domain requests.

The projects would tap into federal incentives for capturing and sequestering carbon dioxide, a prominent greenhouse gas. And the new Inflation Reduction Act is poised to increase those incentives by 70% — companies would be eligible for tax credits of up to $85 per ton of captured carbon. The incentives are expected to reduce emissions from burning fossil fuels, but some argue that will prolong the country’s reliance on those fuels.

“Carbon capture and the hazardous pipelines that support it are a distraction from the real work of tackling the climate crisis,” said Emma Schmit, a senior Iowa organizer for Food & Water Watch, which opposes the pipeline projects. “The Inflation Reduction Act masquerades as monumental climate action, while hiding corporate giveaways like increased Section 45Q tax credits in plain sight.”

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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. His investigative work exposing police misconduct has notched several state and national awards. He is a longtime trustee of the Iowa Freedom of Information Council, which fights for open records and open government. He is a lifelong Iowan and has lived mostly in rural western parts of the state.

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