After missteps, Wolf Carbon poised to redo public meetings in December

By: - October 11, 2022 4:04 pm

The initial Wolf Carbon Solutions pipeline route had the potential to affect landowners in five counties. (Iowa Utilities Board filing)

A company that wants to build a carbon dioxide pipeline in eastern Iowa is expected to hold new public meetings about the project in December after identifying “anomalies” in its landowner notification process.

The new Wolf Carbon Solutions meetings will likely be set for Dec. 6 in Cedar and Linn counties and for Dec. 7 in Clinton and Scott counties, according to discussions at Tuesday’s meeting of the Iowa Utilities Board.

Johnson County was included in the first round of meetings that were held in late August. The initial proposed pipeline route had the potential to affect tiny portions of the county’s northeast corner. The county is no longer in the pipeline’s corridor, said Angela Braun, a Wolf spokesperson.

The meetings are a required first step of the state’s hazardous liquid pipeline permit process, after which pipeline companies can survey land to help finalize their routes and negotiate easements with landowners.

The companies are required by law to send notice of those meetings to all landowners who might be affected by the projects. In Wolf’s case, the company identified a two-mile-wide corridor that goes from Cedar Rapids to the state’s border with Illinois that includes a branch to Clinton. The roughly 90 miles of pipe would transport captured carbon dioxide from ethanol plants in those cities.

But some people who own land in that corridor have said they weren’t notified of the meetings, according to IUB documents. The IUB also found that Wolf might have sent notifications to incorrect addresses.

Wolf reviewed its notification process and “recognized and acknowledges some anomalies have occurred that potentially resulted in certain landowners not receiving notice by certified mail,” it said last week in an IUB filing. The company said there were “incongruences between property address collection … and the process used to disseminate the notices.”

Further, the company said it deliberately omitted notifications for parcels of land within that corridor that it deemed unsuitable for the pipeline, in what it calls a “Swiss cheese” approach.

The IUB questioned whether that approach met the notification requirements of state law. Wolf contends it does but asked the board to restart the notification and meetings process.

Geri Huser, the chairperson of the IUB, indicated Tuesday she is available to oversee the meetings on Dec. 6 and 7, but the board has not yet issued an order to schedule them.

Two other companies, Summit Carbon Solutions and Navigator CO2 Ventures, have proposed pipelines that would cover much larger areas.

Summit is the furthest along in the process and recently suggested setting a final, multi-week permit hearing in March, with the expectation that the board would rule on the permit request no later than June 23, 2023.

Navigator has yet to file its permit petition. It had finished its informational meetings but adjusted its route in June. New meetings associated with the route changes were held in August and September. By law, the company can file its petition 30 days after the last meeting. That milestone occurs late next week.

Summit and Navigator also have pending court litigation with landowners who have blocked their surveys. It’s yet unclear what effect that will have on the permit process.

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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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