Judge set to consider pipeline land survey request

By: - September 22, 2022 3:57 pm

More than 100 people gathered at the state Capitol in March to protest the use of eminent domain to build liquid carbon pipelines. (Photo by Jim Obradovich for Iowa Capital Dispatch)

A state district court judge is expected to decide next week whether to grant a pipeline company immediate access to a Woodbury County property for survey work, according to court records.

Navigator CO2 Ventures, one of three companies that wants to build a liquid carbon dioxide pipeline in the state, is seeking court orders against four sets of landowners in three counties who have barred the company’s agents from surveying their properties to determine the path and depth of the proposed pipeline.

Navigator seeks immediate access to the properties in Butler, Clay and Woodbury counties. The company said delays of the surveys have the potential to significantly postpone the project.

“Navigator expects that if it is not able to complete its surveying by mid- to late October, it may miss its opportunity to do so until the spring of 2023,” the company said in response to a request to delay the court proceedings.

The surveys can involve soil boring that could be hindered if the ground is frozen. Most parts of Iowa have their first freezes starting in mid-October, according to the National Weather Service.

The Woodbury case involving William and Vicki Hulse will likely be the first one decided, court records show. They argue that a state law that allows the pipeline companies to conduct surveys is unconstitutional. The law says the companies can do the survey work after holding public informational meetings about the projects and providing written notice to the landowners.

But, “inherent in any landowner’s property rights is the right to exclude others from their land,” wrote Brian Jorde, an attorney who is representing at least three of the four sets of landowners.

The Hulses want a judge to bar Navigator’s agents from surveying their land without permission and to declare the law unconstitutional. They had sought to delay a decision on Navigator’s injunction request until at least the end of the year.

“Instead of allowing these issues to come before the court with the swiftness demanded by the circumstances, defendants want to delay the inevitable out for months, and maybe years,” Brian Rickert, a Des Moines attorney who represents Navigator, wrote in a court response to the delay request.

District Judge Roger Sailer set a hearing to consider Navigator’s temporary injunction request for Sept. 30.

A court hearing for one of the other landowners, Martin Koenig in Clay County, is set for Oct. 12. No court hearings were scheduled as of Thursday for the other two sets of landowners.

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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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