116 3rd St SE
Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52401
TIPTON — Cedar County residents crowded the Tipton High School auditorium Monday night for an informational meeting about a proposed carbon dioxide pipeline that would slice through eastern Iowa.
It was the second of six scheduled meetings in Eastern Iowa, where ADM and Wolf’s proposed 280-mile carbon dioxide pipeline will stretch from Cedar Rapids into Illinois. During the 3 1/2-hour meeting, attendees posed questions about safety, conflicts of interest on the Iowa Utilities Board and a supposed lack of compliance with required meeting notifications for impacted residents. Wolf representatives also spoke about eminent domain and said they intend not to use it when constructing the pipeline.
After Linn County, Cedar County is the second county the proposed pipeline would pass through on its way to Illinois. Wolf estimates around 26 miles of the pipeline would pass through Cedar County, with 90 total miles being constructed through Iowa.
The pipeline corridor’s two-mile width should help Wolf avoid using eminent domain to connect its path, said Nick Noppinger, the company’s senior vice president of corporate development. If a landowner along the proposed path won’t enter a voluntary easement, then Wolf can shift the path to a more willing landowner nearby in the corridor.
“We take a big stance on voluntary easements,” Noppinger said. “We’ve never done eminent domain over the course of our collective careers. We intend to do the same with this project.”
Wolf’s intention to not use eminent domain was not enough for many meeting attendees.
Julie Broulik of Linn Township said the proposed pipeline endangers some of the county’s most vulnerable populations and lands — including the farm her late husband left to her 17-year-old son.
“My teenage son wants to know if eminent domain is used by force without his consent, or if any of his neighbors decide to go ahead and submit to this … how are you going to compensate him for this recurring risk?” she asked Wolf representatives. “Failure will occur. And it's not a matter of if, but it's a matter of when and who it happens to.”
Residents question pipeline’s safety
Attendees continued to address safety concerns with the proposed pipeline, some referencing Mississippi’s carbon dioxide pipeline explosion in 2020 that forced 300 evacuations and 45 hospitalizations.
Several people inquired about local investments in safety, like funding and training for emergency services. Wolf representatives said they’d be having discussions with local emergency response teams to coordinate and ensure safety precautions.
Other attendees asked about setback requirements for the pipeline, particularly near homes.
Patrick Brierly, Wolf’s vice president of engineering, said that pipelines are regulated by pressure according to how many people are in the near vicinity. There are no mandated requirements for distance between pipelines and occupied structures because pipelines sometimes run through urban areas or to individual homes.
“The more people there are, the bigger the pipeline has to be,” he said. “Setbacks for pipelines don’t exist.”
Some residents didn’t receive meeting notice
Many attendees said they had not received the proper notification ahead of Monday’s informational meeting. At one point during the meeting, an audience member asked other attendees to stand up if they felt like they hadn’t been properly notified. Roughly half of the room rose from their seats.
Tracey McDaneld, Wolf’s director of government relations and land, said the company looked at the 90 miles of pipeline planned to cross Iowa and removed any “environmental avoidance” areas — and their landowners — from its mailing list, which amounted to 5,389 parcels of land.
“There’s a chance you were part of that removal, and that you’re in the corridor but not part of the corridor,” she told the audience. “If you truly are in the corridor and should have gotten a notification, I can give those to you tonight or send you certified mail. And I will apologize.”
Wolf was required to identify property owners within the pipeline corridor, Iowa Utilities Board member Richard Lozier said at the start of the meeting. Attendees were instructed to report any lack of notification to the Iowa Office of Consumer Advocate, which brings cases in front of the Iowa Utilities Board.
Attendee Tyler Baird, whose family’s farm sits just north of Tipton, said Wolf should’ve notified Cedar County residents of the meeting regardless of whether they were in the proposed corridor.
“From my perspective, it’s a respect thing,” he said. “If you respect us, if you want to go across our land, even if we're not in the (corridor) … the good Iowan thing to do would be to notify everyone and not take us off the list.”
Noppinger said the pipeline would generate an estimated 440 construction jobs and $67.2 million in wages and salaries in Cedar County. But some attendees were hesitant to believe these would solely benefit county residents.
“You obviously don't know Cedar County because I'm pretty sure that there’s not 440 pipeline people trained in Cedar County,” said Sue Robinson of Mechanicsville. “You're not creating jobs here in our county.”
Wolf is allowed to start negotiating with landowners in Cedar County now that the informational meeting has concluded.
Landowners have the right to ask for the pipeline to be moved to a different location, Lozier said. But easements will either be voluntarily granted or obtained through the use of eminent domain if granted by the Iowa Utilities Board.
Former Gov. Terry Branstad, who is now a senior policy adviser for Summit Carbon Solutions — another company proposing a pipeline in Iowa — appointed two of the three current Iowa Utilities Board members, including Lozier.
When asked if his appointment would be a conflict of interest, Lozier said he hasn’t come to a conclusion about recusing himself from the decision.
“It may not be an issue, and I don't know,” he told the audience member. “That's the best answer I can give you right now.”
Informational meetings about Wolf’s proposed pipeline continue today in Linn and Clinton Counties.
● Linn County: Aug. 30, noon, at Veterans Memorial Building, 50 Second Ave. Bridge, Cedar Rapids
● Clinton County: Aug. 30, 6 p.m., at Wild Rose Convention Center, 777 Wild Rose Dr., Clinton
● Scott County: Aug. 31, noon, at River Center (Adler Theater), 136 E. Third St., Davenport
● Virtual Meeting: Sept. 19, 6 p.m., participation through Iowa Utilities Board WebEx system at iub.iowa.gov
Brittney J. Miller is an environmental reporter for The Gazette and a corps member with Report for America, a national service program that places journalists in local newsrooms to report on under-covered issues.
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