Pipeline survey injunction hearings to be delayed to next year

By: - October 14, 2022 4:12 pm

The Navigator CO2 Ventures pipeline would bisect the state from northwest to southeast. (Iowa Utilities Board filing)

Navigator CO2 Ventures will not get access to several properties to conduct land surveys before the ground freezes this year, according to court records.

The company — which seeks to build a carbon dioxide pipeline across the entire state — sued four sets of northern Iowa landowners in August, claiming they have prevented its agents from doing the surveys.

Those surveys are meant to help Navigator determine the path of the proposed pipeline. The company has sought expedited court help because it says a delay of the surveys will impede its progress to its economic detriment. The company had argued that it needs to evaluate the land this month, otherwise those surveys might need to wait until the spring thaw.

Some of that survey work might require sampling the soil.

Navigator has sought temporary injunctions against the landowners to permit the work, but a judge recently ruled against one of the requests in Woodbury County because it would have effectively ended the need for further litigation. The landowners are arguing that a state law that grants pipeline companies access to their lands is unconstitutional, and they have sought their own injunctions to bar Navigator from conducting the surveys.

If granted a temporary injunction, the judge reasoned, Navigator would have its survey completed, and the landowners’ arguments would be moot.

In a recent court filing in one of the cases, Navigator said it has reached an agreement with the landowners that would expedite the trials for the lawsuits but delay any decisions about the injunctions until next year.

The first case would be set for trial in January or February, with the other three to follow shortly thereafter, court records show. One of the trials has previously been set for April.

There are also three pending lawsuits that pertain to another company’s plans to build a similar pipeline in western and northern Iowa. Summit Carbon Solutions seeks similar injunctions to conduct the surveys. A hearing for a temporary injunction in one of the cases is set for Oct. 24.

Summit’s need for surveys is more pressing. It filed its application for a hazardous liquid pipeline permit in February and has suggested that state regulators hold a final hearing on the matter in March 2023.

Navigator has not yet filed its permit application, although it will be able to apply next week. The companies must wait 30 days to seek a permit after holding information meetings in counties that are affected by their proposed projects.

A third pipeline company, Wolf Carbon Solutions, recently requested to redo its meetings because some of the potentially affected landowners in eastern Iowa said they didn’t get notice of the first round of meetings. The new meetings are expected to be scheduled for December.

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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.