Capital Clicks

Trial delayed for pipeline trespassing case

By: - March 21, 2023 6:12 pm

An appeal of a judge's ruling on a motion to dismiss is still pending with the Iowa Supreme Court. (Photo by Peter Dazeley/Getty Images)

The trespassing trial of a land surveyor for Summit Carbon Solutions has been delayed for a month because of a pending appeal to the Iowa Supreme Court, according to court records.

The appeal asks the high court to review a judge’s denial of a motion to dismiss the case in January.

Stephen James Larsen, 28, of Arlington, South Dakota, was charged with trespassing in August for going onto a Dickinson County property to conduct a land survey for Summit’s proposed carbon dioxide pipeline. Other surveyors had previously been told to leave and not return.

State law allows the surveys after companies hold informational public meetings about pipeline projects and notify landowners via certified mailings.

The county attorney who is prosecuting the case has argued that Summit should have obtained a court-ordered injunction to gain access to the land, which is allowed by state law if landowners are unwilling to grant access.

District Associate Judge Shawna Ditsworth wrote in January that she lacked the necessary information to decide whether to dismiss the charge against Larsen and set a trial for Thursday. That trial is now delayed to April 20, pending a resolution of the appeal, which was filed in early February.

The trespassing citation against Larsen fined him $354.

Separately, there are several pending requests by Summit and Navigator CO2 Ventures for injunctions against landowners to conduct their surveys.

One of those requests went to trial this month, and a judge’s decision is pending. The landowners have argued they were not properly notified and that the law that allows the surveys is unconstitutional because it does not specify a sufficient procedure to compensate landowners for potential damage caused by the surveys.

Summit is the furthest along in the hazardous liquid pipeline permit process. A final, multi-week hearing for its permit request is set to start in October.

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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.