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Carbon Pipeline Hearings Underway

Landowners who object to letting the Summit Carbon Solutions pipeline run through their properties are making their case to state utility regulators.

The Iowa Utilities Board’s hearing on the company’s application for a pipeline permit began at 10 a.m. today.
Marcia Langner of Ayrshire spent an hour and a half testifying about her concerns about the proposed pipeline route through her Clay County farm.

“For one, I can’t imagine that the land wouldn’t be of a lower value…by having a hazardous CO2 pipeline placed on it,” she said.

Langner accused developers of using “scare tactics” when they say corn prices “will tank” if the pipeline isn’t built. “Keeping the land intact without private entities encroaching on it is a fundamental desire and right,” Langner said.

Nelva Huitink of Hospers said her family put a plan to build an automated milking facility on hold after learning Summit’s pipeline might run through their dairy farm.

“Move it. Go around us. We just do not want it on our land,” Huitink said. “…We only own the 80 acres, so if this easement goes through, we have now have lost 7% of our ability to control what happens on our land.”

Huitink said the Dakota Access crude oil pipeline already occupies 7% of her farm, drainage tile has been damaged and a sinkhole opened up a month ago. “Summit Carbon, at their information meeting, said to us: ‘You’ll never know that we have touched your land.’ Dakota Access said the same thing,” Huitink said. “Six years later, now we have to deal with them coming in, trying to repair this sinkhole. They’ll be tearing up our ground again.”

Jessica Marson was the other landowner who testified on the hearing’s opening day. Her family farm is near Rockford, in Floyd County. She said Summit’s easement contract isn’t just for where the pipeline is buried, it would give the company access to the entire farm. “They’re not essentially asking to pass through it,” she said. “They’re asking for more at every opportunity.”

Marson said the Iowa Utilities Board should put Summit’s application on hold because North Dakota regulators haven’t approved the company’s plan to take liquid carbon to that state for underground storage. “It’s a pipeline to nowhere at this point,” Marson said. “…There is too much ambiguity at this point, which is why we’ve said, ‘No.’”

The hearing will resume at 8:30 a.m. Wednesday and ten more pipeline opponents are scheduled to testify. The hearing is expected to last for several weeks, perhaps to the end of September. Lawyers spent part of the opening day arguing about what kind of questions they’re allowed to ask of landowners.

Bret Dublinski represents Summit Carbon Solutions. “This is not a clarification question,” he said of a question posed by Brian Jorde, who represents landowners who don’t want Summit’s pipeline on their property. “…If we go around and around and around, we’re never going to conclude.”

Jorde countered: “‘They raised a topic and we should be able to touch on that topic.”

Utilities Board chairman Erik Helland, who is presiding over the hearing, interjected. “We have two very talented attorneys, giving us a very good demonstration on procedure…For the rest of us, I think we’d like to move into the next questions and we’d like to move on.”

Helland and the other two members of the Utility Board are asking questions of landowners, along with other lawyers in the room representing groups like the Sierra Club, the Iowa Farm Bureau.

Summit Carbon Solutions executives say the pipeline will be a boost to Iowa’s agricultural sector by shipping carbon out of ethanol plants and allowing the fuel to be reclassified as carbon neutral.

Radio Iowa story and picture.  Nelva Huitink testifying.