Pipeline company sues a second Iowa county over local ordinances

By: - November 17, 2022 4:45 pm

A company that hopes to build a carbon dioxide pipeline across Iowa is suing a second Iowa county over local efforts to regulate the placement of the controversial pipeline. (Photo by krisanapong detraphiphat/Getty Images)

A company that hopes to build a carbon dioxide pipeline across Iowa is suing a second Iowa county over local efforts to regulate the placement of the controversial pipeline.

Summit Carbon Solutions, which hopes to build a pipeline to transport carbon dioxide across Iowa, sued Story County earlier this week in U.S. District Court for Southern District of Iowa. On Wednesday, Summit filed a similar lawsuit against Shelby County.

Both lawsuits allege the locally elected county boards of supervisors are attempting to impose on the project siting requirements that are the exclusive province of federal regulators.

Summit is developing an interstate pipeline that, if completed, will transport carbon dioxide captured from more than 30 facilities — primarily ethanol plants but also fertilizer plants — across South Dakota, North Dakota, Nebraska, Minnesota and Iowa through a network of 1,900 miles of underground pipes.

In Iowa, the project would likely involve 680 miles of pipeline through 30 counties.

Summit is now in the process of surveying routes for the project and securing the necessary permits while negotiating with landowners for access to their property.

The company has been working with the Iowa Utilities Board for more than a year as part of the planning and permitting process and has obtained voluntary easements for nearly 60% of the proposed route in Iowa.

The two lawsuits allege the federal government regulates the safety of pipelines such as the one proposed by Summit, and the Iowa Utilities Board has the statutory authority to issue route permits.

On Oct. 25, the Story County Board of Supervisors passed an ordinance that establishes setback and other requirements for hazardous materials pipelines in the county in the interest of “public safety.”

Two weeks ago, the Shelby County Board of Supervisors gave unanimous approval to an ordinance that would force Summit and other pipeline companies to obtain county permits for construction and impose restrictions on any pipeline’s proximity to homes, schools and farm.

The ordinance states that its intent is to establish a permitting process that will impose “conditions and safeguards when using land in the county for purposes of a hazardous liquid pipeline.” The ordinance says it is designed to “to secure safety from fire, flood, panic, and other dangers” that might result from the pipeline.

Both of Summit’s lawsuits seek a court order declaring the local ordinances are preempted by the Pipeline Safety Act and thus invalid and unenforceable, at least as it relates to Summit’s planned pipeline.

A co-plaintiff in both lawsuits is William Couser, a Story County farmer who owns a 5,200-head feed lot along the Summit pipeline route. Couser is one of the founders of Lincolnway Energy, which operates its ethanol production facility in Story County.

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Clark Kauffman
Clark Kauffman

Deputy Editor Clark Kauffman has worked during the past 30 years as both an investigative reporter and editorial writer at two of Iowa’s largest newspapers, the Des Moines Register and the Quad-City Times. He has won numerous state and national awards for reporting and editorial writing. His 2004 series on prosecutorial misconduct in Iowa was named a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize for Investigative Reporting. From October 2018 through November 2019, Kauffman was an assistant ombudsman for the Iowa Office of Ombudsman, an agency that investigates citizens’ complaints of wrongdoing within state and local government agencies.

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