Iowa landowners push lawmakers to stop the use of eminent domain for carbon pipelines
Iowa farmers gathered at the state Capitol on Tuesday to ask legislators to prevent the construction of carbon capture pipelines through their land without their permission.
The pipelines proposed by Summit Carbon Solutions, Navigator C02 and Arch Daniels Midland Co. would capture carbon from the air, liquify it and store the pressurized carbon underground. But more than 100 farmers came from across the state to protest involuntary use of their land for the projects.
“This land is a part of us,” said Kathy Stockdale, whose land in Hardin County would house two pipelines if eminent domain, or the involuntary seizure of land for public use, is granted.
The Iowa Legislature is considering putting a temporary year-long ban on the use of eminent domain for the three companies that have proposed to construct carbon capture pipelines. But many landowners feel a year-long moratorium will not help them. They said the legislation doesn’t stop the companies from negotiating with landowners and only postpones the issue.
Marian Kuper, who also owns land in Hardin County, said she wanted to see her representatives tackle the issue head on and prohibit the companies from using eminent domain in their projects. She said she feels the Iowa farmers’ interests aren’t being represented.
“Legislators, I’m your constituent,” she said. “It’s time you listen to people like me instead of throwing me under the bus.”
So far, only one company, Summit Carbon Solutions, has petitioned to use eminent domain — citing its potential environmental benefits.
“I wake up every morning and usually my first thought is how can I convince the Iowa Utilities Board that this hazardous liquid CO2 pipeline is a mistake for the citizens of Iowa."Dan Tronchetti, impacted landowner from Greene County
Environmental groups, like Iowa’s Sierra Club and Food and Water Watch chapters, helped to organize opposition to the pipeline. They have been outspoken in their consideration of carbon capture as a “false solution” to the climate crisis.
Carolyn Raffensperger, an environmental lawyer, said she believes the pipelines transporting hazardous liquid C02 are unsafe and the potential harmful impact of a leak would be devastating.
“The unusual bedfellows that have come together here, environmentalists, landowners and farmers, we don't often see eye to eye,” Raffensperger said. “But we do on this.”
But the companies constructing the pipelines contest these claims and tout the project’s ability to capture millions of metric tons of carbon from the atmosphere. Ahead of the hearing on Tuesday, Summit Carbon Solution issued a statement that said they were working to create a mutually beneficial relationship with landowners.
“The fact that Summit Carbon Solutions has signed easements on more than 100 miles of the proposed route in Iowa and are finalizing 70 additional miles in the state in just a few short months is a clear indication that the current system is working and working well,” part of the statement read.
Only a handful of state legislators attended the “staged public hearing.” Sen. Jeff Taylor, R-Sioux County, said the state government has an obligation to protect individual property rights. Earlier in the session, his proposed bill to ban eminent domain for the companies failed to gain traction.
“I would still like to see the power of eminent domain stripped from the Iowa Utilities Board. They should not be using it for private companies,” he said. “If that can not be done this session, I will be back next session.”
Democratic legislators Sen. Herman Quirmbach of Ames and Rep. Jeff Shipley of Fairfield also took the stand to express their dismay at the legislature’s inaction toward banning eminent domain for the projects.
But, not all at the hearing were opposed to the pipeline. Richie Schmidt, the president of the local laborer’s union, said the state should support the pipeline projects and the local jobs it would bring construction workers.
“We feel like over the years, these projects have been harder and harder to get approved,” said Schmidt. “This is how we make our living.”
Representatives from Navigator C02 pipelines said their project alone is estimated to create 5,000 temporary construction jobs.
Some landowners said they felt the pipeline project would have a negative economic impact on farmers. Dan Tronchetti, who owns land in Greene County, said he’s concerned that his land value could be hurt by the pipelines. He said he doesn’t feel the pipelines are in the public’s economic interest.
“I wake up every morning and usually my first thought is how can I convince the Iowa Utilities Board that this hazardous liquid CO2 pipeline is a mistake for the citizens of Iowa," he said.
Many landowners said they've owned the lands for generations and are concerned with how this project could impact their yields in the coming years. Cynthia Hansen, who owns a century farm in Shelby county, said her land was her legacy.
"This is not just a piece of dirt to be willy nilly dug up," Hansen said. "My family has shed blood, sweat and tears on this land, seeing good harvests and bad that always protecting the soil."