BY CHUCK VANDENBERG
LEE COUNTY – Property owners in rural Lee County that stand to be impacted by the construction of a CO2 recapture pipeline are doubling efforts to stop the project.
Ray Menke, a farmer in rural Lee County, told the Lee County Board of Supervisors at Monday’s regular meeting that he has a petition with 118 signatures of property owners in the county who don’t want another pipeline run across valuable farmland. The county already has several pipelines, including the Dakota Access pipeline.
The difference this year is that the board of supervisors, who were favorable to the other pipelines, are now on record as opposing the construction of the Heartland Greenway carbon dioxide pipeline. Monday supervisors approved an objection letter that will be sent to the Iowa Utilities Board in opposition to the project.
The letter refers the IUB to Iowa Code 6A.21 which outlines protections provided to agricultural lands from private development. The letter also points out the differences in CO2 pipelines compared to fuel pipelines.
“Unlike natural gas pipelines or fuel pipelines, CO2 pipelines serve no public purpose,” the letter indicates.
“The precedent set by granting of eminent domain to projects like this would mean that eminent domain could be used for any number of projects for which it was never intended.
“Lee County strongly urges the Iowa Utilities Board to cautiously and carefully consider the nature of the benefits when determining public convenience and necessity of the proposed pipeline.”
Menke said only two of the people approached to sign the petition declined to sign it. He also said West Point City officials are considering similar action to Lee County.
“Two people we talked to thought it would be a good idea to wait and see their offer.”
Menke said the contractors who put tile into fields want nothing to do with repairing the tiles that are damaged during construction. The pipeline company offers payments to property owners for easements onto the land and pay to have the land reset to its original condition.
“So the guys that put these (drainage structures) in for me now are saying they don’t want anything to do with it because the pipeline company is going to pawn the liability of this onto those that go in and fix it,” Menke said.
Supervisor Garry Seyb said that caught his attention at the last meeting. He said if they used the same ground to run the pipeline as other pipeline companies have used in the past, that would negate some of the issues by only disturbing the same ground.
“It feels different. They aren’t making people feel very comfortable with this,” Seyb said.
Menke said he was given the impression the Heartland pipeline would be following similar rights of way the other pipelines already have.
“But I’ve found out since that they are 100s of feet away from that. So I’m guessing the other pipeline (companies) that are there now know how dangerous this is and don’t want them next to theirs.”
Supervisor Ron Fedler said if there a lot of landowners objecting to the new pipeline, the board is obligated to listen to them.
The pipeline, owned by Navigator CO2, would run about 900 miles through 36 counties in Iowa. It would be 6 to 24 inches in diameter and buried a minimum of five feet. Lee County is projected to have 50 miles of the pipeline running diagonally from the northwest corner of the county to the southeast corner.
It is planned to have offshoots to the Iowa Fertilizer Company and Big River Resources in West Burlington. The pipeline is projected to carry 15 million metric tons of carbon dioxide annually.
Seyb said the people he’s spoken with aren’t interested in the compensation.
“They didn’t care what the money was, they didn’t want to be basically sitting on a bomb that takes the oxygen out of the air,” Seyb said.
If the pipeline were to rupture, Fedler said the release of the carbon dioxide consumes the oxygen in the vicinity of the rupture, which could pose a danger to anyone in close proximity.