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Summit Carbon Solutions to begin seeking easements in Cerro Gordo County

Summit Carbon Solutions Meeting

Members of the Iowa Utilities Board prepare for the public informational meeting at NIACC on Monday afternoon. 

The first steps toward a massive carbon emissions pipeline are beginning to take form in Cerro Gordo County. 

On Monday afternoon, Summit Carbon Solutions and the Iowa Utilities Board held a public informational meeting, one of several scheduled throughout the North Iowa area, at North Iowa Area Community College (NIACC) to discuss the plans for the proposed Midwest Carbon Express project. 

Present among attendees were local government officials such as Sen. Amanda Ragan, D-Mason City, Cerro Gordo Supervisor Chris Watts and Cerro Gordo Planning and Zoning Administrator John Robbins.

Meeting attendees got the chance to ask questions to both Summit Carbon and the Iowa Utilities Board, and many expressed their concerns over the project. 

Second carbon capture pipeline would also run through North Iowa

One of the major points of concern brought up by attendees was the safety of the pipeline.  

"Can Summit state unequivocally that no adverse health impact has occurred as a result of a liquid CO2 leak," asked one attendee. 

"I'm not aware of any, ma'am," Summit Carbon Solutions Chief Operating Officer Jimmy Powell said. "They've been in service for decades now." 

Powell went on to explain that carbon dioxide is non-flammable and combustible, and that the Midwest Carbon Express only transports pure carbon dioxide and not any hydrogen sulfate, which Powell claims is what caused the CO2 pipeline explosion in Mississippi last February

He also said that any breaks in the pipe would be swiftly resolved by Summit Carbon, with technology planned to be in place to block or restrict CO2 flow from continuing along a broken pipeline. 

Another issue raised was the invasiveness of the pipeline, and the company, on landowners' property. 

Multiple attendees asked about setbacks of the pipeline from homes, to which Powell explained that the goal is to have a 500-foot setback from all structures.

"Then why does this map show the pipeline passing by less than 325 feet from my house," exclaimed one attendee after hearing about the 500-foot setback goal. 

Powell elaborated that it's the goal of Summit Carbon to have a 500-foot setback from all structures, and that anyone who currently has a pipeline projected to be closer than 500 feet should feel free to get in contact with Summit Carbon to rectify that. 

"What we try to do in routing the pipeline is stay at least 500 feet away from a structure," Powell said. "So if we haven't done that on your property let us know, because our intent is to do that."

Some attendees asked if they even had the option to not participate in the pipeline, or if eminent domain would be enforced. 

Summit Carbon Solutions Vice President of Government and Public Affairs Jake Ketzner said that the goal of the company was to work cooperatively with all landowners, but when pressed further Ketzner admits that eminent domain may be enforced. 

"Our hope is to seek voluntary easements with as many landowners as possible," Ketzenr said. "If the IUB grants our permit my understanding is that eminent domain is something that comes with that, but like I said our goal is to seek as many voluntary easements as possible."   

Eminent domain is when a government body can expropriate private property without permission from the owner of the private property, with compensation. 

In this case, eminent domain would theoretically be used to construct segments of the pipeline in non-consenting landowners' property. 

The representatives from Summit Carbon Solutions said that this pipeline would be the biggest carbon emissions pipeline in the world, spanning five states and totaling over 2,000 miles. 

The proposed route of the project will span 705.3 miles in Iowa and 27.38 miles in Cerro Gordo County, according to Summit Carbon Solutions. The project will also run through parts of Hancock, Floyd, Franklin and Wright Counties. 

So what's up with this carbon capture pipeline in North Iowa?

Summit Carbon Solutions has partnered with over 30 ethanol facilities in the five states, including Golden Grain Energy in Mason City. 

The project aims to take carbon dioxide that would otherwise be put into the atmosphere and divert it through these pipelines to be stored underground in North Dakota. 

Summit Carbon Solutions has invested $4.5 billion in the project and estimates that it will be able to transport 12 million tons of carbon dioxide per year. 

At the end of the meeting, Joshua Byrnes of the Iowa Utilities Board said that Summit Carbon Solutions can now begin officially seeking easements with landowners for the pipeline. 

The project is slated to begin construction in 2023 with hopes to be operational by 2024. 

The easement process has now officially begun for Cerro Gordo County landowners, and in the coming months Summit Carbon Solutions will also conduct environmental and cultural surveys to make sure they are in compliance with county and state legislation. 

Written comments or objections to the proposed pipeline can be filed electronically using the IUB’s Open Docket Comment Form, by email to customer@iub.iowa.gov, or by postal mail to the Iowa Utilities Board, Docket No. HLP-2021-0001, 1375 E. Court Ave., Des Moines, IA 50319. 

Zachary Dupont covers politics and business development for the Globe Gazette. You can reach him at 641-421-0533 or zachary.dupont@globegazette.com. Follow Zachary on Twitter at @ZachNDupont

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