Anti-CO2 pipeline bill advances in Iowa

By Elijah Helton
Iowa Information

DES MOINES—The anti-pipeline movement has coalesced around a single bill in the Iowa Legislature.

“We’re looking at this to be our centerpiece,” said Rep. Tom Jeneary (R-Le Mars). “I’m hoping we can get something done. I know that some folks would certainly like to see more, but this is something very workable.”

House File 368 takes aim at the several carbon-capture pipelines — including the project from Summit Carbon Solutions which will cut through the northeast portion of Greene County — that corporate interests are planning to build in the Hawkeye State. The proposed route for the Midwest Carbon Express would cut through farmland in Greene County, transporting carbon dioxide up to North Dakota.

Louis Dreyfus Company, a global merchant and processor of agricultural goods north of Grand Junction on Highway 144, has agreed to partner with Summit as a capture facility.

The bill would delay and possibly stop the carbon-capture projects in three main ways:
●• Pipeline companies would need to get 90 percent of landowners on the route to sign a voluntary easement before eminent domain could be pursued.
●• The Iowa Utilities Board, the state’s main authority on the pipelines, would not be allowed to permit the project until pipelines first get the go-ahead from other states involved.
●• The IUB also would have to wait until federal safety rules on CO2 pipelines are completed, which would likely be some time next year.
There are additional provisions in the bill to get county-level government more involved in the process.
Jeneary is one of the bill’s co-sponsors. Before the 2023 legislative session began, he identified the issue as one of his main priorities this year.
He added that House File 368 does not do enough to fully stop the threat of eminent domain. Since the pipelines are private ventures and would not have a public use, Jeneary and many other anti-pipeliners argue that any unwilling land seizures would be inappropriate.

“Personally, I would like to see eminent domain fully stopped, but this might be a compromise,” Jeneary said.
The bill made it through its House Judiciary subcommittee hearing Tuesday, one of the first tangible steps in the legislative process. It will need to pass the full committee before heading to the full House floor.

The hearing came later in the day after a group of a couple hundred anti-pipeline demonstrators met at the Capitol.
Various groups opposed to the CO2 projects have made weekly visits to Des Moines during the legislative session, but organizers planned for Tuesday to be a particularly impactful gathering.
Amy Solsma, a farmer from rural Sanborn, was at the demonstration and the subcommittee hearing. It was the first time she had made the drive, more than 400 miles round trip, for a protest in the state capital.

“I was going to try and go down because I’m passionate about this. I had never been to a rally before, and I thought, ‘Well, if the weather cooperates, I’m just going to do that,’” Solsma said.
The day was indeed chilly, but the predicted snowstorm held off until the following day.

The legislation still faces an uphill journey, especially in the Senate, where Sen. Jeff Taylor (R-Sioux Center) said his efforts have “stalled out.”
Taylor introduced five bills in January aimed at restricting and potentially stopping the pipelines, particularly on eminent domain grounds. None of them have received a hearing. A legislative leader in anti-pipeline action last year as well, Taylor said House File 368 looks like the movement’s best shot.

“We’ve had landowner groups coming to the Capitol every week. But this was by far the biggest group we’ve had this session. It was a big day for those of us who are concerned about these pipelines,” Taylor said. “I have hope that it’s going to pass out of its committee and then the full House. It’s not everything that’s going to provide protection for the landowners, but it’s still a significant step.”

Taylor said leadership in the Republican-held Senate is still resistant to interfering with the pending carbon capture ventures. The ethanol industry has pushed for projects it sees as vital to its long-term profitability.
The senator said that lobbyist pressure will remain if House File 368 makes it to his chamber, but the momentum will be too much to ignore outright, as is the present case.

“Politically, there’s just not the will to move in the Senate, but I’m hopeful about the House bill. If it does pass, it’s going to put pressure on the Senate to do something with it,” Taylor said. “That’s the difference from just one backbench senator saying something. That’s going to catch the attention of Senate leadership in a way my bills have not.”

Four in five Iowans oppose CO2 pipeline companies using eminent domain, according to an April poll commissioned by Food & Water Action, with similar numbers regardless of political party.
Democrats have broadly supported anti-pipeline efforts. Last year, party legislators supported Taylor’s effort to ban eminent domain for the projects before the Republican majority killed it. Deidre DeJear, the Democratic nominee for governor in November, aired an ad attacking the GOP for not preventing land seizures for CO2 lines.

The Iowa Farm Bureau has come out in favor of House File 368  and the group sent a lobbyist to speak at Tuesday’s subcommittee hearing.


The CO2 pipelines slated to come through Iowa have grown into one of the state’s major political fights since fall 2021.
Companies such as Summit Carbon Solutions and Navigator CO2 Ventures want to build multi-state pipelines that would take the carbon dioxide byproduct from ethanol plants and transport it to be stored underground.
Proponents say this would shrink the fuel’s carbon footprint, making the biofuels industry more sustainable economically and environmentally. Opponents have myriad reasons for opposing the pipelines.

One of the key sticking points has been the threat of eminent domain. Many landowners who live along the project routes, mostly farmers, are opposed to their property being used for the CO2 lines. Various pieces of state-level legislation have been introduced in an attempt to resolve the issue by tipping power away from corporate interests and toward individual citizens.
Other states across the Midwest, from North Dakota to Illinois, also are dealing with the pipeline issue in their legislatures.

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