Carbon pipeline company takes unwilling landowners to court

By: - September 7, 2022 4:27 pm

Navigator CO2 Ventures is set to conclude its public informational meetings soon. (Photo by Jared Strong/Iowa Capital Dispatch)

Navigator CO2 Ventures, one of three companies that have proposed liquid carbon pipelines in Iowa, recently sued four sets of landowners to gain access to their properties to survey the land, according to court records.

The company filed petitions in August for injunctive relief against landowners in Butler, Clay and Woodbury counties. The company claims the landowners have repeatedly refused to grant access to their properties and alleged physical threats toward the company’s land agents, whose surveys will help the company determine the path of the pipeline.

“Get off my land before I let the dog go,” a spouse of one of the landowners allegedly told one of the agents, who interpreted the woman’s words as a physical threat, court records show.

In a different county, a landowner’s tenant “nearly ran over” another agent, Navigator alleges.

In its petitions, Navigator cites Iowa law that says “a pipeline company may enter upon private land for the purpose of surveying and examining the land to determine direction or depth of a pipeline by giving ten days’ written notice.”

The law continues: “The entry for land surveys … shall not be deemed a trespass and may be aided by injunction.”

The potential pipelines have drawn fierce resistance from landowners, county officials, conservationists and others, especially because of the potential use of eminent domain to build them despite landowners’ objections.

The companies aim to transport captured carbon dioxide from ethanol plants to be sequestered underground in other states. The projects seek to capitalize on billions of dollars of federal incentives to cut greenhouse gas emissions.

Andy Bates, a Navigator spokesperson, declined to comment on the court petitions and whether the company might file more. He also declined to reveal the percentage of the roughly 800-mile route for which the company has signed voluntary easements with landowners.

“We are making progress on easements and are signing additional tracts every day,” Bates said.

Another company, Summit Carbon Solutions, has said it has permission for about 40% of its route through Iowa. A Summit spokesperson did not respond to a request to comment about its potential litigation with landowners.

Summit is further along in the process to gain a hazardous liquid pipeline permit from state regulators. It and Navigator had held required public meetings starting late last year in each of the affected counties. By law, those meetings must precede the land surveys and negotiations with landowners.

In June, Navigator altered its route and is in the process of holding new meetings in counties where the changes occurred. Those meetings were set to conclude later this month.

In each of the four district court actions, Navigator seeks court orders to prevent landowners from interfering with the surveys and help from sheriff’s offices to ensure access to the properties is “timely and safely provided.”

The petitions were filed against Dennis Hart in Butler County, R.V. Hassman L.P. in Butler County, William and Vicki Hulse in Woodbury County, and Martin Koenig in Clay County.

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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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