Iowa Utilities Board hearing for pipeline permit concludes
STATEWIDE — The Iowa Utilities Board (IUB) evidentiary hearing for Summit Carbon Solutions’ petition for a hazardous liquid pipeline resumed last Tuesday and concluded the next day after a month-long recess due to scheduling conflicts with the venue wherethe hearing was held.
The hearing, which began at the Cardiff Event Center in Fort Dodge Aug. 22, featured testimony from Summit officials, expert witnesses, and several Iowa landowners, including many from Shelby County.
Last Tuesday, the board’s website indicated on Thursday, November 9, Summit would offer its rebuttal to the dozens of landowners who testified against the pipeline being on their property.
No rebuttal testimony was given, and Summit issued a press release November 9 announcing the conclusion of the hearing, calling it “a significant event in the progress of the transformative pipeline project”. Summit said to date, 75% of impacted landowners in Iowa have signed voluntary easements with Summit, but have not provided proof to support that fact.
“This figure underscores the community’s trust in the project and the benefits it promises. It also speaks to the company’s commitment to fair compensation and respectful land management practices,” Summit said in its press release.
Pipeline opponents have been critical of the Iowa Utilities Board since the evidentiary hearing’s start date was announced, as it was during harvest season. The opening date, which was originally scheduled for October 23, was changed to August 22, leading some landowners to accuse the Board of fast-tracking the project.
At a hearing scheduling meeting held by the IUB in July, Shelby County landowner Mary Powell, who also testified during the hearing last Tuesday, told the board she had “great concerns about how the Board has all of a sudden tried to push everything through really quickly.”
Powell stated she felt the board wasn’t listening to the landowners. “You’re being pushed by people with big money,” Powell said.
Opponents have also expressed concern with the Board’s refusal to allow anyone within close proximity to the proposed pipeline route, including neighbors, businesses, tenants, and anyone who did not hold ownership status on land impacted by the pipeline, to testify.
Charles City farmer Dean Holzer filed an objection October 13. In the objection, Holzer expressed concern for his livelihood if the pipeline is approved. “I rent land that is directly impacted by the Summit pipeline route. Summit has requested easements from three separate landowners whose property I farm. I have a number of concerns that I would have liked to share during the on-going hearing, but I was not given the opportunity,” Holzer stated in the objection.
“As a tenant, not only do I not have the privilege of participating as a Party in the Summit proceedings, I also do not have the privilege of negotiating with Summit. Although my livelihood depends on the productivity of the land, I have little say in what may happen to it.”
On November 2, Jean Kohles, a landowner from Johnston, filed a motion against the Board stating “Historically, the Board has allowed public comment in contested cases – a precedent the Board appeared committed to following for the Summit Carbon Solutions proceedings, going so far as to provide tentative dates and procedures on multiple occasions. The lack of transparency regarding the Board’s seemingly recent reversal towards the encouragement of public participation serves only to further the undercurrent of distrust and conjecture surrounding the Summit proceedings.”
Shelby County landowner, Sherri Webb, stated, “Unlike Summit, Iowans are guided by more than greed. This is not – and has never been – about money to us. It’s about our love for our land, our way of life, about standing up for what is moral and just. We didn’t take Summit’s dirty money before and we won’t take it now.”
The Iowa Utilities Board is comprised of Chairperson Erik M. Helland and Board Members Joshua J. Byrnes and Sarah M. Martz. IUB members are appointed by the governor, and subject to confirmation by the senate.
Summit’s proposed $5 billion project would span approximately 2,000 miles across five-states, and would transport captured carbon dioxide from ethanol plants to North Dakota for underground sequestration.
Originally, the pipeline system was planned to be in operation in 2024. However, South Dakota and North Dakota have denied the company’s permit applications. Summit representatives said they planned to reapply in South Dakota. The North Dakota permit is being reconsidered with modifications to the proposed project. In October, Summit announced due to permit issues, the pipeline would not be in operation until 2026.
Summit Carbon Solutions is asking IUB to approve a permit to construct, operate and maintain 687 miles of 6- to 24-inch diameter hazardous liquid pipeline for the transportation of liquefied carbon dioxide through 29 counties in Iowa. The proposed route travels through Shelby County and encroaches Earling city limits.
According to the IUB website, the Board will now review the record in Docket No. HLP-2021-001, and base its decision on Iowa law and the evidence, testimony, exhibits, and written comments filed in the docket and will issue its final decision. Summit Carbon Solutions’ application to build an underground pipeline to transport CO2 across the state.
Before the Iowa Utilities Board delivers a decision on the Summit project, parties have to file post-hearing briefs – a process that is expected to take around 11 weeks.
“The volume and strength of the evidence opposing Summit’s pipeline presented to the Iowa Utilities Board was overwhelming, just as it was in South and North Dakota,” said Wally Taylor, Attorney for the Sierra Club Iowa Chapter.
“ I don’t see how in good conscience the Board can grant Summit a permit.” IUB can either grant the permit, grant the permit with modifications, or deny the permit. There is no deadline for the Board to issue its final decision.
When the hearing recessed October 6, the IUB website said, “Throughout the seven weeks of testimony, the IUB has consistently stated the hearing would continue until every witness has testified.” The website stated based on the information provided by remaining witnesses or their attorney, IUB scheduled the hearing to resume November 6-8 to hear testimony from non-intervening eminent domain landowners and other witnesses who have yet to testify.
Summit believes the hearing represents a critical step forward.
“The project stands as a testament to Summit’s commitment to creating new opportunities for farmers, strengthening existing agricultural markets, and ensuring the sustained success of the ethanol industry. Once operational, the company will benefit local economies through increased tax revenues and provide a stable foundation for the future of generational farming,” the press release read.
“This project is generational and transformative, and will allow family farms to continue to operate for generations to come,” said Summit Carbon Solutions CEO Lee Blank. “We look forward to continuing to partner with ethanol plants across our five-state footprint to ensure the longevity of the industry as a whole.”