‘My family’s been through this 4 times’: Story County residents push back against carbon sequestration pipeline

Source: By Danielle Gehr, Ames Tribune • Posted: Wednesday, September 15, 2021

Land is environmentally sensitive, but it is also emotionally sensitive, one man pleaded at a public meeting in Ames on Monday informing stakeholders of how a 2,000-mile pipeline might impact them.

The $4.5 billion carbon capture pipeline is planned to cut through land the man’s family has earned their living off of for six generations. He asked not to be named but was not the only attendee to raise issues with the project.

Officials with Summit Carbon Solutions argued the 12 million tons of carbon dioxide emissions that could be captured each year by their project would outweigh any environmental concerns residents along its route might have.

With its current partners, the company says it would capture 8-9 million tons in its first years, but say the pipeline has capacity for as much as 12 million tons, annually.

Company officials told attendees of Monday’s meeting — one of 31 the company plans to host across the state — that the path is not yet set in stone and can be adjusted. A similar meeting will be held in Boone on Monday, Oct. 4, at the Boone Historical Society.

More: Story, Boone counties 2 of 30 that $4.5 billion carbon sequestration pipeline would run through

“I don’t disagree with anything you’re saying. And, frankly, I grew up on a farm and pattern tile farms; we know what it’s like,” president of Summit Ag Investors Justin Kirchhoff said Monday. “If there are damages that are above and beyond what we have talked about, we’re happy to have a discussion on that.”

Attendees continued to push for more concrete plans on how land disputes and damages would be addressed, and Story County Supervisor Linda Murken said after the meeting some valid concerns still needed to be addressed.

The pipeline, which would run through 30 of Iowa’s 99 counties, would capture carbon dioxide emissions from ethanol and other industrial plants, preventing emissions from being released into the atmosphere, which contributes to climate change.

The emissions would instead be compressed into a liquid form and transported to North Dakota, where they would be injected into underground rock formations.

Summit Carbon Solutions says the project could bring partner facilities to a net-zero fuel source, meeting low-emissions standards in states like California and enabling them to tap into those markets.

The proposed pipeline would cross through Story County’s northeast corner and connect with Nevada’s Lincoln Way Energy, one of 12 ethanol plants to partner with the project.

The Story County facility produces 18 million gallons of ethanol a year and emits 900 tons of carbon dioxide every day, Interim CFO of Lincoln Way Energy Jeff Kistner said.

“With the efficiencies of doing this and other projects that we’re looking at, we will become a negative carbon index score over the next few years,” Kistner said.

The meetings, which will be hosted by the Iowa Utilities Board, are required to inform the public of the “hazardous liquid pipeline” before a hearing can be held to decide whether to grant Summit Carbon Solutions a construction permit.

Attendees were briefed on landowners’ rights, easements and eminent domain at Monday’s meeting, which utility board members say is only the first step.

More Story County-area news this week:

Summit Carbon Solutions would be required to cover damages caused during construction, including the potential loss of crop yields — 100% the first year, 80% the second and 60% the third.

Farmers said the easement grant and three years of crop yield coverage would be a drop in the bucket compared to the long-term impacts of digging up their soil and potentially relocating drain trials.

Fred Dorr, who attended Monday’s meeting to advocate on behalf of several family members who would be impacted by the project, said royalties would be more appropriate.

“Now, my family’s been through this four times,” Dorr said. “The one thing pipeline companies say, ‘We’re just gonna come in; we’re gonna bring the pipeline, pay for any crop damage, your one-time easement payment, and then it won’t harm you.’

“But the point is access to our land has value to you folks … Why should you be allowed to use our land, for your profit, without sharing some of that with the landowners?”

A reoccurring topic brought up by attendees was the aftermath of the Dakota Access Pipeline, which also cut through Iowa. For farmers with land along the 1,100-mile route, some said the soil was left less valuable after construction had been completed.

Story County farmers worried their land would meet the same fate as a result of this latest project, dubbed the Midwest Carbon Express.

“I, too, was a landowner in Jasper County and got that big packet of information when the Dakota Access Pipeline came through,” Jasper County landowner Kathy Burns said. “I know what it’s like to fish through all that information.”

A leak by a Mississippi pipeline that forced the evacuation of hundreds of people and even caused some to foam at the mouth was brought up by multiple attendees, as well.

More:Company wants to build a carbon sequestration pipeline in 30 Iowa counties. Find out where.

“I’m sure you will argue, ‘We’re safer’,” Fred Dorr said. “But the point is, the first responders did not handle it. It hurt a lot of people in the process. And it was a dramatic, drastic impact on a small community in Mississippi.”

One key difference between the pipelines, Summit Carbon Solutions’ Chief Operating Officer Jimmy Powell argued, is that the Mississippi pipeline contained hydrogen sulfide, while the Carbon Express would only contain the “purest form of C02 available.”

Company representatives also said first responders would be briefed on their operations. The project would also fall under the jurisdiction of the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration.

The meeting was also well-attended by workers who would benefit from the influx of jobs the project promises to bring to the state. The company touts 14,000-17,000 temporary positions, predominantly in the building and construction trades, as well as several hundred permanent positions.

A third of the jobs would come to Iowa. Iowa State Building and Construction Trades Council President William Gerhard attended the meeting to advocate for the project.

“I grew up in a western Iowa small farming community,” Gerhard said. “I know how hard it is to find well-paying jobs … I think this is a great opportunity to help rural Iowa with the creation of a lot of jobs.”

Danielle Gehr is a politics and government reporter for the Ames Tribune. She can be reached by email at dgehr@gannett.com, phone at (515) 663-6925 or on Twitter at @Dani_Gehr.

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