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Public meetings on proposed carbon pipeline begin in Iowa

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Kendall Crawford
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IPR
At an information meeting in Lyon County, representatives from Navigator CO2 Ventures presented on their proposed pipeline that would pass through 900 miles of Iowa.

Lyon County residents had the opportunity to voice their concerns and ask questions Monday regarding a proposed carbon capture and sequestration system that would run through 36 counties in Iowa.

The Iowa Utilities Board hosted the first of many public meetings on Navigator CO2 Venture’s plan to construct a 1,300 mile pipeline through Iowa, Minnesota, Nebraska, South Dakota and Illinois. Western Iowa landowners expressed concerns over the safety and efficacy of the pipeline.

“Most of this property has been in the families for centuries. We are more or less being told what we can take and do and how they are going to use our land, that is a part of us,” said Dan Rentschler, one of many landowners whose farm sits in the proposed pipeline's path.

The Heartland Greenway steel pipeline would capture carbon dioxide emissions from ethanol plants, pressurize the gas into a liquid and transport it to be stored underground in Illinois. At the informational session, the company presented on the process of compensating farmers, the safety of the pipeline and touted its environmental benefits.

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Navigator CO2 Ventures
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“We’re committed to being collaborative and working in good faith with each of you. Not just now, but throughout the length of the project,” said Navigator’s vice president of government affairs Elizabeth Burns-Thompson, speaking to landowners. “That means understanding each parcel, understanding each landowner and each tenet and unique circumstances of each.”

Navigator CO2 Ventures predicts the carbon sequestration system would be able to store 15 million metric tons of carbon, “eliminating the carbon footprint of the Des Moines metro area three times over.”

However, Iowa environmentalists, including the Iowa Chapter of the Sierra Club have spoken out against the pipeline, labeling it as a false climate solution. It’s one of two proposed pipelines against which they are taking a stand.

Iowa farmers seek answers on land impact

At the meeting, many landowners questioned how their land and its worth may be impacted by the construction of a pipeline and safety procedures in place for potential leaks.

“We are dealing with something that everyone seems to admit is a hazardous liquid and I have a concern with that,” said Bill Van Gerpen, a concerned farmer in Lyon County. “These farmers have farmed this land for years...and now to see someone come in and tear up that ground, that bothers me.”

"Most of this property has been in the families for centuries. We are more or less being told what we can take and do and how they are going to use our land, that is a part of us."
Dan Rentschler, landowner in Lyon County

Company officials assured that all land would be restored to the same condition as before construction. The system would be monitored at all times for temperature and pressure to prevent leaks, a spokesperson for the company said.

“There’s a lot of safeguards from the design process, the construction process and the ongoing operations,” said Stephen Lee, Navigator’s senior vice president of engineering. “In the unlikely event of a release, we, as the pipeline operator, would be liable for that situation.”

Landowner Dan Rentschler expresses his concern over the safety of the proposed pipeline at an informational in Lyon County.
Kendall Crawford
/
IPR
Landowner Dan Rentschler expresses his concern over the safety of the proposed pipeline at an informational in Lyon County.

The company would purchase 50-foot permanent easements from landowners. Compensation will be calculated using market studies of property sales from the last two years and input from current landowners.

“It’s a two-way collaboration,” Lee said. “The right-of-way agents that will be assigned to each one of the parcels will educate how we came up with those numbers, as well as the parameters that went into those numbers.”

Each impacted landowner has the right to negotiate with the construction agency and retain legal counsel to challenge concerns, according to the Iowa Board of Utilities.

Landowners will also be compensated from crop losses within the first three years of the pipeline’s construction. The agency will pay 100 percent of crop loss the first year, 80 percent in the second year and 60 percent in the third. Any losses after the third year will be worked on a one-on-one basis for farmers.

But some farmers said they were still concerned that this compensation wouldn’t make up for long-term effects of ground disruption.

Economic impact

Proponents of the more than $2 billion project said the pipeline would produce economic benefits for the state of Iowa.

The agency estimates their project would create 5,000 construction jobs in Iowa as well as 50 more permanent positions. Black Rock, a New York based investment company, is financially backing the company, while Valero, an oil company with ethanol plants in Iowa, will be a commercial participant.

 Navigator CO2 Ventures' representatives answer questions on how their proposed pipeline would impact farmers' land in northwest Iowa.
Kendall Crawford
/
IPR
Navigator CO2 Ventures' representatives answer questions on how their proposed pipeline would impact farmers' land in northwest Iowa.

But, some farmers at the meeting wanted to know how the pipeline would help their own business.

Burns-Thompson said the pipeline will grow the ethanol industry, which could potentially increase demand for corn from farmers. Iowa currently leads the nation in ethanol production, with 4.1 billion gallons generated each year.

“This is connected to the facilities that many of you deliver corn to. Many of these facilities that are emitting into the air that all of us breathe in the county. The direct benefits are happening in residing here,” Burns-Thompson said.

The agency promised a study on the localized economic impact on farmers will be released for landowners to review in the near future. If approved, the pipeline is projected to be operational by early 2025.

The company will continue to hold public informational sessions in all 36 counties through which the pipeline would run. The Iowa Utilities Board will host a virtual meeting on Jan. 19 at 5:30 p.m. for those who cannot attend any of the meetings in-person.

Kendall is Iowa Public Radio’s western Iowa reporter based in Sioux City, IA.