Carbon dioxide pipeline opponents have argued that rich investors would benefit from the projects, rather than the public. (Photo by Kathie Obradovich/Iowa Capital Dispatch)
A request to compel the testimony of Bruce Rastetter, an influential agriculture executive, during Summit Carbon Solution’s permit hearing in Iowa is merely an attempt to “create an irrelevant sideshow,” Rastetter and his company, Summit Agricultural Group, allege.
Some opponents of Summit Carbon’s proposed carbon dioxide pipeline seek Rastetter’s under-oath testimony for more information about the company’s relationship with Summit Agricultural Group, which he founded. Opponents also want to know who will profit from the project. Rastetter is also co-founder of Summit Carbon.
If the Iowa Utilities Board grants the subpoena request, it could open Rastetter to questions beyond the scope of the companies’ structures. Pipeline opponents have long alleged that Rastetter’s political influence and money have helped accelerate the pipeline project to approval in Iowa and have sought proof of it.
An attorney for Rastetter and Summit Agricultural Group argued Wednesday that Rastetter’s testimony is inappropriate because the two companies are separate entities and that one does not exert unilateral control over the other.
“While Mr. Rastetter is an investor in Summit Carbon Solutions, and serves on the board of Summit Carbon Solutions, Mr. Rastetter is only one of eight board members and does not have the ability to control the corporate strategy of Summit Carbon Solutions,” attorney Spencer Cady wrote.
Cady further argued that the 11th-hour request for Rastetter’s testimony violates state rules that generally require the requests at least a week before the start of an evidentiary hearing for a hazardous liquid pipeline permit.
“The parties had ample opportunity to obtain information, to the extent relevant, regarding any connection between Summit Carbon Solutions and Summit Ag during the discovery period and chose not to do so,” Cady wrote.
Summit Carbon’s hearing started Aug. 22. The subpoena motion was filed Sept. 7 by the daughter of a landowner affected by the project. The Sierra Club of Iowa and a group of state lawmakers have since joined that motion.
They have questioned whether Summit Agricultural Group’s investments abroad might adversely affect Iowa-produced ethanol and want more information about who will profit from the pipeline.
“Even if this pipeline proposal were free of disputes on due process and allegations of the appearance of impropriety, the potential risks to public safety involved in this proposal would merit careful public scrutiny of the pipeline’s ownership,” wrote Rep. Charley Thomson, R-Charles City, on behalf of the Republican Legislative Intervenors for Justice.
Summit Agricultural Group is an important investor in Summit Carbon. When a South Korean energy company announced in May 2022 that it would acquire a 10% stake in Summit Carbon, it said it was part of a “dream team with U.S. companies that are the leaders in their industries such as Summit Agricultural Group” and others.
A Summit Carbon spokesperson said they did not know what percentage stake Summit Agricultural has in the company.
Summit Agricultural Group “developed the concept for the project,” according to testimony last week from James Powell, chief operating officer of Summit Carbon. He also agreed with a statement that Summit Carbon was “borne out” of Summit Agricultural Group.
It’s unclear when the IUB will decide the subpoena request.
Summit’s hearing is in its fourth week. The IUB indicated it wants the hearing to conclude by the end of the month, but there are a large number of witnesses who might yet testify.
Summit proposes a five-state pipeline system that would transport captured carbon dioxide from ethanol plants to North Dakota for underground sequestration. North and South Dakota have rejected the company’s initial permit requests.
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