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U.S. carbon pipeline proposals trigger backlash over potential land seizures -Breaking


© Reuters. FILE PHOTO A wind farm is seen sharing space with farmland in Latimer (Iowa), U.S.A, February 2, 2020. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst


Leah Douglas

(Reuters] – The U.S. Midwest is flooded with proposed carbon pipelines. This has triggered a dispute over whether the companies responsible for the projects can seize land of unwilling property owners in order to obtain a route.

According to a Reuters analysis and interviews with those involved, hundreds of Iowa landowners and more than a dozen counties are trying to restrict the use of eminent Domain law to permit the construction of these pipelines. They argue that property rights and other issues outweigh any potential benefits to the local economy and climate.

As companies that are behind these projects try to reach voluntary agreements with landowners, they seek to bring the issue to light. They want to be able to dig and install the lines. This would allow the company to transport the carbon from biofuel processing plants underground.

The companies could turn to eminent property if they refuse to grant easements to landowners.

U.S. Eminent Domain law permits private corporations to seize property provided that the project is in the public interest. Landowners receive compensation. The law is used frequently to make sure energy companies are able to finish projects like transmission lines and pipelines that deliver oil, gas and electricity to consumers.

However, the law is not being applied to carbon pipes. These are more regulated by the states than the federal government and have only a few of them constructed, according to Department of Energy (DOE).

The emerging U.S. industry for carbon capture and storage will be greatly affected by how state regulators and legislators handle the matter. The Biden administration has identified CCS as critical infrastructure to meet the country’s climate targets and oil companies, biofuel producers, and other emissions-heavy businesses are eying investment in CCS as a way to secure a role in a climate-friendly future.

There are approximately 5,000 miles (8.047 kms) of carbon dioxide pipes in America, mostly in Texas and Wyoming. The gas is transported under pressure from oil fields and natural gas fields in order to boost production.

A White House report in 2021 stated that developers would have to add 65,000 additional miles to store enough carbon for the country’s goal of net zero emissions by 2050. For a FACTBOX of information on U.S. CCS, click here

“It’s pretty important for (CCS pipelines) to be successful if we want to achieve our climate goals,” said Matt Fry, state and regional policy manager for carbon management at the Great Plains Institute. We must start somewhere.

Talks Under the Way

Summit Carbon Solutions (Navigator Ventures) and Wolf Carbon Solutions (Wolf Carbon Solutions) have each proposed new pipelines of 3,650 miles (5.874 km). These will run across the Midwest, transporting 39 million tonnes of carbon from fertilizer plants and ethanol to storage facilities in North Dakota, Illinois, and North Dakota.

Projects would be funded by existing state and federal subsidies for CCS/low-carbon fuels as well as from fees collected from participants who are keen to limit their environmental impact.

Iowa would get the bulk of pipeline miles – more than 1,600 miles, or 48%, of Summit and Navigator’s pipelines. The state’s utility regulator, the Iowa Utilities Board (IUB), will ultimately decide whether to permit the projects and grant them the right to use eminent domain.

Summit, the first pipeline to petition IUB for an IUB permit and the right of eminent domain. Summit did not submit a filing indicating how much land Summit intended to obtain with eminent Domain.

Summit stated to Reuters that it did not include the file because Summit is currently focusing on voluntary easements for landowners.

A request for comments was not answered by the IUB

Jimmy Powell, chief operating officer of Summit said that Summit had signed several hundred easements so far. He did not answer a question regarding how large a portion of the pipeline route he represented.

Many landowners along the route have refused to sign easements with Summit, citing concerns about farmland productivity and land values after the pipeline is installed, according to previous Reuters reporting

Navigator stated in a statement, that it had not yet begun to talk with landowners regarding easements. Wolf Carbon Solutions didn’t respond to our request for comment.

Iowans have concerns in the meantime.

Twenty counties in Iowa have filed objections with the IUB opposing the use of eminent domain for the pipelines, including 52% of counties along the Summit pipeline’s proposed route and 41% of the counties along Navigator’s proposed route, according to the Reuters review of the docket.

Ty Rosburg, vice chair of the board of supervisors of Crawford County, which is among the counties objecting to eminent domain, said he and his colleagues are “not opposed to the pipeline, per se.” But they fear the use of eminent domain could prevent farmers from getting the best financial outcome.

“All we’re really after is a fair talk, back and forth,” he said.

Republican Senator Jeff Taylor from Iowa, however, has introduced a bill to stop pipelines taking agricultural land by eminent domain. He didn’t respond to my request for comment.

Sierra Club, Iowa’s chapter of environmental organization said to Reuters that it received concerns from many landowners about the use of eminent domain. CCS can be used to increase oil production, and provide revenue to fossil fuel companies.

Jessica Mazour is coordinator of the conservation program for the chapter. She stated, “Now is the right time to ban the eminent domain in private projects.”


The question is whether or not carbon pipelines have a public function. The companies have argued that the environmental and economic benefits of capturing and storing carbon from Midwest ethanol plants serves farmers, other state residents, and the nation’s climate goals.

Summit stated in Iowa that it would provide 350-460 jobs for full-time workers and enable the state’s ethanol sector to be competitive in low-carbon fuel markets.

Terry Branstad (Summit’s senior policy advisor) is an ex-Gouvernor of Iowa who served as the Ambassador to China during President Donald Trump’s presidency. In a December letter, Branstad stated that the project would keep ethanol “relevant in the market.”

According to the White House Council on Environmental Quality’s report, CCS has a “critical role” in helping decarbonize the world economy.

The White House refused to comment about the use of eminent Domain to construct these pipelines.

Many landowners think that the biggest beneficiaries of the network would be pipeline companies.

Some landowners told Reuters they are also concerned that the pipelines’ construction and maintenance could reduce agricultural yields on affected land, and that they are worried about potential leaks of the heavier-than-air gas affecting people and livestock.

“Ultimately, this pipeline is not a public utility,” said Don Kass, a farmer and chairman of the Plymouth County board of supervisors in Iowa. “This is a profit centre for a select group.”