State regulators rebuff second pipeline company’s proposed schedule

By: - August 10, 2023 4:55 pm

Navigator CO2 Ventures seeks to build about 1,350 miles of carbon dioxide pipeline in five states. (Map courtesy of Navigator CO2 Ventures)

The Iowa Utilities Board rejected a request to meet next week to discuss a schedule that will dictate the remainder of Navigator CO2 Ventures’ carbon dioxide pipeline permit process, according to board documents.

Navigator is the second company to propose a sprawling pipeline system to transport captured carbon dioxide away from ethanol plants and other facilities. It suggested a schedule last month that includes a start date for its final evidentiary hearing in June 2024.

The company seeks a decision on its hazardous liquid pipeline permit request in October 2024.

“The board will not adopt the tentative proposed schedule filed by Navigator,” the IUB said in a recent order denying the company’s request to meet next week.

It was unclear in the order whether the board merely objected to a meeting next week or if it disagreed with the broader schedule.

The IUB set a scheduling conference for the company’s permit request in early October. That would follow a self-imposed deadline by the company to complete its list of land parcels that might be subject to eminent domain.

State rules require that list to be complete before the IUB sets the final evidentiary hearing, and its incomplete status led pipeline opponents and others to object to Navigator’s scheduling proposal. They said Navigator has failed to submit any portions of its eminent domain list despite earlier indications it would do so starting several months ago.

Navigator, in its response to those objections, said it wants to solidify a schedule to avoid claims that its permit process is being rushed, which has dogged the permit application of Summit Carbon Solutions.

Summit was the first to propose a carbon dioxide pipeline in the state and is set to start its final hearing in less than two weeks.

The evidentiary hearings might go for weeks or months and feature a case-by-case consideration of eminent domain requests.

The companies have sought voluntary land easements from landowners to construct their pipelines, but they can use eminent domain to force easements with the approval of the IUB.

Some state lawmakers have alleged that Summit’s permit process has been “fast-tracked” after a change in leadership of the board. The former chairperson of the board had made clear that Summit’s evidentiary hearing would start in October, but Gov. Kim Reynolds appointed a new chairperson of the three-member board, which then decided the hearing would start two months earlier.

Summit is fighting a recent judge’s opinion that the company should reveal to certain stakeholders its agreements with ethanol plants to verify its claims that its project “promotes the public convenience and necessity,” a requirement for permit approval.

The IUB set a Friday deadline to submit arguments about that opinion, and it’s unclear when it will decide whether to adopt the judge’s proposed order. Summit’s hearing starts Aug. 22 in Fort Dodge.

Landowners who oppose Summit’s project are paying a pilot to fly a banner over the Iowa State Fair on Friday that says “Stop Rastetter’s land grab” and “No CO2 pipelines,” according to the Bold Alliance, an environmental group. The banner references Bruce Rastetter, the co-founder of Summit Carbon Solutions.

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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.