Iowa Utility Board Approves Eminent Domain for Controversial CO2 Pipeline


The Iowa Utilities Board (IUB) has given the green light to Summit Carbon Solutions, approving the use of eminent domain for a contentious CO2 pipeline project. The $5.5 billion initiative aims to build a 2,000-mile network across five states, transporting captured carbon dioxide from ethanol plants to North Dakota for underground storage. This approval, however, has ignited a fierce debate among landowners, environmentalists, and lawmakers​.

Proponents of the pipeline argue that it is essential for reducing the carbon footprint of Iowa's substantial ethanol industry, which consumes half of the state's corn crop. Summit Carbon Solutions asserts that the project will enable ethanol producers to qualify for lucrative federal tax credits and sell their product in low-carbon fuel markets, thus supporting Iowa's economy in the long term​​.

Despite these promises, the project has faced significant opposition. Critics, including farmers and environmental groups, raise concerns about the safety and environmental impact of the pipeline. They argue that the pipeline poses risks to farmland and local ecosystems, and they question the necessity of using eminent domain to acquire private land for a private enterprise​.

The IUB's decision follows a two-year deliberation process, during which Summit secured agreements with ethanol producers but struggled to gain voluntary easements for the pipeline route. Iowa legislation passed last year requires companies to acquire easements for 90% of their proposed routes before being eligible for eminent domain, a threshold Summit has yet to meet​​.

Public hearings on the pipeline have been contentious, with landowners expressing fears about potential ruptures and the impact on their properties. Jessica Marson, a fourth-generation landowner, voiced her concern about the safety of her community, stating, "At this point, there is nowhere for this pipeline to go. Pause the threat of eminent domain and provide the citizens in Iowa the necessary safety releases to understand what you're asking"​.

Environmental advocates also argue that the push for carbon capture technology might be rendered obsolete by the rapid shift towards electric vehicles, driven by federal policies. They emphasize the importance of transitioning to renewable energy sources like wind and solar, where Iowa is already a leader, rather than investing in infrastructure that may soon be outdated​.

In response to the IUB's approval, the Iowa Farm Bureau Federation has recommended measures to mitigate the potential impacts on landowners, including compensation for crop yield losses and damage to subsoil drain tiles. However, the organization has not taken a definitive stance on the approval itself​.

As the project moves forward, Summit Carbon Solutions faces additional regulatory hurdles in other states, with previous proposals being rejected in North and South Dakota. The company plans to reapply after adjusting the pipeline's route, indicating that the battle over this controversial project is far from over​.


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