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Carbon pipeline company takes unwilling landowners to court
Navigator seeking access to land for surveying
By Jared Strong, - Iowa Capital Dispatch
Sep. 9, 2022 1:40 am
Navigator CO2 Ventures, one of three companies that have proposed liquid carbon pipelines in Iowa, recently sued four sets of landowners to gain access to their properties to survey the land, according to court records.
The company filed petitions in August for injunctive relief against landowners in Butler County in north central Iowa and in Clay and Woodbury counties in northwest Iowa.
The company claims the landowners have repeatedly refused to grant access to their properties and made physical threats toward the company’s land agents, whose surveys will help the company determine the path of the pipeline.
“Get off my land before I let the dog go,” a spouse of one of the landowners is quoted in the lawsuit as saying to an agent, who interpreted the words as a physical threat, court records show.
In a different county, a landowner’s tenant “nearly ran over” another agent, Navigator alleges.
In its petitions, Navigator cites Iowa law that says “a pipeline company may enter upon private land for the purpose of surveying and examining the land to determine direction or depth of a pipeline by giving 10 days’ written notice.”
The law continues: “The entry for land surveys … shall not be deemed a trespass and may be aided by injunction.”
The potential pipelines have drawn resistance from landowners, county officials, conservationists and others, especially because of the potential use of eminent domain to build pipelines despite landowners’ objections.
The companies aim to transport captured carbon dioxide from ethanol plants to be sequestered underground in other states. The projects seek to capitalize on billions of dollars of federal incentives to cut greenhouse gas emissions.
Andy Bates, a Navigator spokesperson, declined to comment on the court petitions and whether the company might file more. He also declined to reveal the percentage of the roughly 800-mile route for which the company has signed voluntary easements with landowners.
“We are making progress on easements and are signing additional tracts every day,” Bates said.
In each of the four district court actions, Navigator seeks court orders to prevent landowners from interfering with the surveys and help from sheriff’s offices to ensure access to the properties is “timely and safely provided.”
The petitions were filed against Dennis Hart in Butler County, R.V. Hassman in Butler County, William and Vicki Hulse in Woodbury County and Martin Koenig in Clay County.
Navigator, a Texas company, initially planned to bring its CO2 pipeline through Linn, Benton, Cedar, Clinton and Poweshiek counties, but dropped that spur in June.
The revised plan proposed adding a pipeline through Bremer, Fayette, Buchanan and Delaware counties in Eastern Iowa. Navigator is holding public meetings in those new counties, which are scheduled to conclude later this month.
A Navigator spokeswoman said in June the Linn County spur had been included to access ADM plants in Cedar Rapids and Clinton.
But ADM and Wolf Carbon Solutions announced in January they plan to build a 350-mile pipeline to transport liquefied CO2 from ethanol and cogeneration facilities in Cedar Rapids and Clinton to ADM’s already-operational sequestration site in Decatur, Ill.
Another company, Summit Carbon Solutions, is planning a 2,000-mile C02 pipeline through Iowa to North Dakota and has said it has permission for about 40 percent of its route through Iowa.
A Summit spokesperson did not respond to a request to comment about its potential litigation with landowners.
Summit is further along in the process to gain a hazardous liquid pipeline permit from state regulators. It and Navigator have held required public meetings starting late last year in each of the affected counties. By law, those meetings must precede the land surveys and negotiations with landowners.
This story first appeared in Iowa Capital Dispatch.
Erin Jordan of The Gazette contributed to this article.