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Kathy Stockdale’s kitchen may as well be mission control in a plan to keep two carbon capture pipelines from running through her Hardin County century farm.
“Our house is right here,” she says as she points at a corkboard dotted with tacks marking homes and lines marking where she believes the Summit Carbon Solutions and Navigator carbon capture pipelines plan to go.
Using publicly available information, she’s closely watched to see if people along the route have signed voluntary easements.
Summit, Navigator and Wolf Carbon Solutions all plan to build carbon capture pipelines in Iowa. If both Summit and Navigator are approved, both will run through Stockdale’s farm.
“Where are our property rights that we’ve been guaranteed by our constitution and by our state?” she said, standing in her driveway with her son and husband. “They’re being taken away. I think that’s what I’m fighting for is our property rights.”
Take a pen and draw it about 30 miles northwest of Kathy Stockdale’s farm, and you hit Bob Ritter’s first-generation farm near Dows.
“I’m sparring with them right now,” Ritter said.
Ritter hasn’t signed an easement, because he says he doesn’t believe carbon capture pipelines are public utilities to use eminent domain. Eminent domain can only be used for public ownership, or for private ownership that serves a public purpose or use.
“No gain for private companies; this is not a public utility,” Ritter said. “That’s the first thing here. It really shouldn’t go much further.”
Ritter is also worried about drainage on his property.
“If you’ve got it pattern tiled, it’s the Cadillac of farming,” he said.
But Ritter says he will sign an easement for the right price.
South of both Stockdale and Ritter is Bill Couser, who runs a 5,200-head feedlot with crop acreage as well. Couser signed an easement with Summit to build a pipeline on his ground near Nevada.
“I truly believe that if you have any passion about climate change at all, you have to be thinking about this and looking at this,” Couser said.
Couser is a founder of Lincolnway Energy, an ethanol plant that will be hooked up to the Summit Carbon pipeline.
“When you look at Summit Carbon Solutions, they know how to put that dirt back,” he said. “Within two or three years, you won’t even know it’s there.”
Couser’s advice is for farmers and landowners to sit down with Summit and do what’s best for each individual farm.
Corn LP in Goldfield is another Iowa ethanol plant that plans to be part of the Summit project. If the pipeline is approved, the plant will capture carbon dioxide, one of the byproducts from making ethanol, turn it to liquid, and send it through the pipeline.
Summit plans to capture CO2 from plants in five states and then inject the liquid deep into the earth north of Bismarck, North Dakota.
Corn LP General Manager Chris Boshart believes investing in this and other technology could make the plant carbon neutral in the next 10 years.
“We can really put us on a path to being a carbon-negative fuel in the future which is something that is very difficult to achieve,” Boshart said.
Summit has applied for a hazardous liquid pipeline permit from the Iowa Utilities Board, a hearing will be held regarding Summit’s application.
“Spring of next year we should get final decisions on pipeline permits,” said Jim Pirolli, Chief Commercial Officer for Summit. “Then we’ll begin construction in mid-2023 and be in operation in Q3 of 2024.”
Summit has secured easement agreements with more than 2,100 landowners across the Midwest and has easements for 50% of the total project and 56% in Iowa. But, without every landowner’s cooperation, eminent domain may need to be used. Summit has notified the Iowa Utilities Board where it may need to take that controversial step.
Roughly two dozen county boards of supervisors have objected to the use of eminent domain and expressed their concerns with the project to the IUB.
The Wright County Board of Supervisors, where Corn LP is located, said in part that board members are “vehemently opposed to the proposed project and its impact,” citing the potential use of eminent domain and how the project can affect drainage in the county.
“It’s taken a while to educate landowners and address their concerns on things like damage to crops, how we’re addressing drain tile and replace those as we come through to leave the ground the same way that we found it,” Pirolli said.
As another crop is picked from the ground, what could eventually flow beneath them still remains to be seen.
“They just need to work with the people instead of coming in and acting like they’re the kings,” Ritter said.
“I truly believe it’ll be done right, and you’ll never know it’s there,” Couser said.
“I think the whole issue comes down to where are our property rights?” Stockdale said.
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