116 3rd St SE
Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52401
CEDAR RAPIDS — With a company proposing a carbon dioxide capture pipeline to run through a portion of Linn County, the county’s Board of Supervisors will consider an ordinance next week to regulate setbacks of pipelines “carrying hazardous materials.”
Wolf Carbon Solutions of Colorado, one of three companies pursuing underground C02 pipelines in Iowa, is proposing a liquid carbon dioxide sequestration pipeline between Cedar Rapids and Decatur, Ill. The company’s proposal calls for collection of compressed CO2 at ADM plants in Cedar Rapids and Clinton and shipping it in a 16-inch underground pipeline to ADM’s sequestration site. Wolf also wants to find other industrial clients to tie into the project, which would be eligible for federal tax credits.
The supervisors will be voting on first consideration of the ordinance at its Monday meeting, the same day Wolf begins its second round of informational meetings with the public over its plans.
Another pipeline company, Summit Carbon Solutions, filed lawsuits against Story and Shelby counties earlier this month after the counties adopted setback ordinances. Summit argued that the county supervisors there adopted ordinances that attempt to preempt oversight from the Iowa Utilities Board and the federal government. The cases currently are in U.S. District Court.
The Linn County ordinance addresses safety setbacks from hazardous materials pipelines. Pipelines carrying natural gas already are regulated by the state utilities board, but hazardous materials pipelines are regulated by the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration.
Linn County Planning and Development Director Charlie Nichols said that since a carbon pipeline disaster in Mississippi two years ago, the federal code hasn’t been updated, so he wants the county ordinance to offer an extra layer of protection.
“If there is a lawsuit, we will handle it at that time. We have tried to be flexible enough in this code focusing on health, safety and welfare while providing a path where these projects can be built,” Nichols said. “We are trying to make it so the project is possible but adding in extra protections. My hope is we don’t get sued and the pipeline company is reasonable and Iowa Utilities Board respects the ordinance and the pipeline company doesn’t challenge it.”
Nichols said he thinks it’s important for the public to know whether counties can enforce setbacks on pipelines, since it’s never been tested until recently.
“It’s possible the Iowa Utilities Board grants the certificate and ignores our code, but we’re writing these ordinances in good faith while trying to be reasonable and protect safety. We are just trying to do something to add an extra measure of safety,” Nichols said.
Based on the currently proposed route, the Wolf pipeline would run through the southeast portion of Linn County. Earlier this fall, Johnson County was removed from the pipeline’s route.
The company will hold meetings Monday and Dec. 6 in four Iowa counties about the proposed 280-mile pipeline. Its first round of meetings did not include proper notification of all landowners affected by the route so it is doing a second round.
Redoing the meetings may set back Wolf’s proposal process. The company can’t start negotiations with landowners until after the informational meetings and can’t file a permit request with the state until 30 days after the completion of the meetings. Wolf officials have said they do not want to use eminent domain to force landowners to grant easements, and the company hasn’t used condemnation on past projects.
The proposed county ordinance that will go before supervisors passed the county’s Planning and Zoning Commission on a 5-1 vote last week. Committee member Griffin Kuntz voted no and George Maxwell was not at the meeting.
The ordinance proposes two setback standards. One would apply to public areas like schools, hospitals and parks. That mandates a setback of 155.8 feet times the pipeline’s diameter, which would equal about 2,500 feet — a little less than half a mile — for the 16-inch pipeline. The second sets a setback of 107.65 feet times the diameter of the pipeline, plus another 328 feet, equal to about 2,050 feet for the pipeline.
Linn County Planning and Development Director Charlie Nichols said a separate setback standard is being proposed for future growth areas in the county.
Johnson County Director of Development, Planning and Sustainability Josh Busard said in Johnson County, there have been only internal discussions about amending the county’s current pipeline regulations. Currently, there are no sections of any carbon capture pipeline proposed in Johnson County.
“Except for a work session meeting with the Board of Supervisors on Aug. 17 when I discussed with the Board of Supervisors carbon capture pipelines and potential ordinances in a general nature, I have not had any discussion about specific updates to our pipeline ordinance with the Board of Supervisors or the Planning and Zoning Commission,” Busard said.
Busard said to help inform the county’s decision-making process for any future ordinance, he will be watching the outcome of the two lawsuits that Summit Carbon Solutions filed against Shelby and Story counties.
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