BY CHUCK VANDENBERG
FORT MADISON – A Fort Madison couple is among many Lee County residents fighting to keep a carbon capture pipeline from being built in Lee County.
The Navigator Heartland Greenway CO2 pipeline is being proposed to run diagonally northwest to southeast through Iowa for a total of 810 miles, including more than 50 miles of pipeline buried in Lee County. The entire pipeline would run approximately 1,300 miles through five states.
Heartland Greenway has said the pipeline has the capability of capturing and storing up to 15 million metric tons of CO2 per year, equivalent to about 3.2 million vehicles annually.
The pipeline would range in width from 6 to 24 inches in diameter and would run with a potential 3500 pounds per square inch (psi) of pressure.
Ted and Carelle Stein of rural Fort Madison are just two of 156 objections that have been filed with the Iowa Utilities Board since the docket on the proposed pipeline was opened. Ted Stein is the Trustee of the Ted Stein Trust, which holds the Steins’ farmland off 180th Street north of Fort Madison.
The trust farm is a Century Farm under the Iowa Department of Agriculture and Land Stewardship Program and has been in Stein’s family for 121 years.
On June 7th, POET, the world’s largest ethanol producer, announced it would join the efforts of Navigator on the carbon capture pipeline.
According to a news release from POET, the agreement outlines Navigator’s integrated carbon capture, utilization, and storage (CCUS) services for approximately five million metric tons of POET’s CO2 annually and establishes a path for the development of a central carbon offset marketplace and carbon use logistics platform. The system will phase in 18 of POET’s bioprocessing facilities across Iowa, Nebraska, and South Dakota, and is on schedule to be in service in 2025.
But Ted Stein’s, who’s filed an objection to the pipeline, has serious concerns about the safety of the pipeline. He said company officials have indicated that 95% of the liquefied carbon is actually pure carbon dioxide, the other 5% could be extremely harmful. He said he has not received an answer as to what makes up the other 5%.
Stein is a retired professional mechanical engineer with more than four and a half decades of service in the Twin Cities, and has experience directly working with pipelines and chemical outputs.
“I’m familiar with pipelines and material compatibilities and controls and valves and just about everything these guys are doing, I’ve had my hands on one way or another more or less for a long, long time,” Stein said.
His work has required him to consistently monitor possible exposures to hydrogen sulfide, low oxygen, methane, carbon monoxide, and other potentially harmful gases and particles.
Lee County has had multiple landowners approach the Board of Supervisors to oppose the pipeline construction in the county, prompting the board to send a letter in objection to the pipeline earlier this month, one of 16 counties along the route that have filed objections.
A total of 156 objections have been filed on the IUB project docket – HLP 2021-003. Sixteen counties, including Lee, and three cities have filed formal objections to the pipeline. Other counties have filed comments on the pipeline and have shown support of changes to the state Inspector Manual to allow more authority to local inspectors.
Land owners are concerned about the need for the pipeline, the safety of having liquefied carbon dioxide running through the county under high pressure, and many have a distaste for pipeline companies in the wake of the Dakota Access pipeline.
Federal law requires the company to compensate landowners for any land taken for easements either voluntarily or under eminent domain. However, Iowa law allows for eminent domain proceedings only for utilities that are for the public good.
Navigator proposes the carbon capture removes carbon from the atmosphere during the processing of fuels, therefore helping the environment by staving off climate warming.
But Stein said with every molecule of carbon capture, two molecules of oxygen are also captured, which is bad for the environment.
A total of 12 counties have had additional informational meetings planned from Aug. 22 to Sept. 15. Lee County is the last meeting, but it is also the most southeastern county in the planned route.
Carrelle Stein, a lawyer licensed in Iowa and Minnesota, filed a motion to intervene on behalf of the Stein Trust on March 2, 2022.
As one of Stein’s legal arguments, she claims Iowa Code 479B is void and violates the 5th and 14th Amendments to the U.S. Constitution. She also says the State has no authority to grant eminent domain to Navigator because the pipeline doesn’t serve a public interest, such as a natural gas line would.
She also claims the state hasn’t offered compensation for the private landowners’ rights to exclude entry to their property.
“Code 479B.15 says they can enter our property and it’s not a trespass, all they have to do is give us 10 days notice. It’s an absolute taking and a violation of 5th and 14th Amendments,” she said. “The state of Iowa didn’t give us money to take away our rights to exclude.”
She said officials can go on property for health and safety if you have toxic chemicals and somebody reports you.
“But they can’t take our right to exclude Navigator and shift it to a private entity without just compensation. That’s a Constitutional violation.”
She also asserts that Navigator has failed to disclose predictable adverse events and impacts, and says no Environmental Impact Study has been filed with the state.
Stein isn’t the only attorney on file as a landowner in the path of the pipeline in Iowa. Charles Montange, of Seattle, who owns property in Woodbury County, provided several case citations in his assertions, similar to Stein’s that any entrance onto property by Navigator, or its contractors, even for a survey, would be consider an invasion of the property and a “taking of property per se” under U.S. Supreme Court rulings in a case out of California, Cedar Point Nursery vs Hassid.
That was a 6-3 decision in the U.S Supreme Court siding with the land owners. The dissenting opinion, written by Justice Stephen Breyer read, “latitude toward temporary invasions is a practical necessity for governing in our complex modern world.”
Chief Justice John Roberts wrote for the majority that the majority, “cannot agree that the right to exclude (entry) is an empty formality, subject to modification at the government’s pleasure”.
Ann Marie Welshan, the Director of Right of Way with Navigator, sent the Steins a letter on Jan. 24 that said the IUB had cleared Navigator to begin negotiations with landowners along the proposed route. She wrote if the Steins did not wish to coordinate with Navigator’s survey team, Iowa Code 479B.15 allowed them to enter the land for a survey before Feb. 3, and the action would not be considered trespassing and could be “aided by an injunction if necessary.”
Montange alleged that language amounted to threats and intimidation of landowners and asked the Board to deny Navigator’s access under federal rules banning such threats.
“These are threatening horrible letters,” Carelle said.
Navigator has retained Universal Field Services out of Texas with a field office in Cedar Rapids to coordinate and conduct surveying the land.
The Steins said they received a phone call from a field office rep from the UFS and the official was raising his voice and demanding the surveyors be allowed to enter the property to which Carelle said she denied.
“At that point, under Iowa law, he should have just politely said thanks for your time and we’ll pursue an injunction through the courts, because that’s what Iowa law says,” Ted said. “But he wouldn’t hear any of that from her and I finally took the phone and he came on the same way with me. I told him we weren’t communicating and I was hanging up.”
The couple then sent letters to the UFS headquarters and also to the local field office in Cedar Rapids and no surveyors have been on the field.
Stein also filed exhibits with IUB and informed Welshan on Jan. 19 that no agents of Navigator were allowed to enter the Stein property. Stein replied to Welshan on Feb. 8 that the Trust was holding to its barring of any Navigator agents or surveyors on the Stein Farm this time, adding that Navigator is not a common carrier in Iowa and is not a public utility.
Nebraska Indian Tribe now playing a role
On May 27th, the Winnebago Tribe of Nebraska filed a formal request with the IUB for an Environmental Impact Study to be conducted prior to the issuance of any permits for the Navigator Project.
On Feb. 22, 2020 a CO2 pipeline in the village of Satartia, Miss. (pop. 42) along the Yazoo River, ruptured at about 7:10 p.m. sickening about 49 people including those from outlying areas. That pipeline was owned by a company called Denbury, Inc., who mobilized the liquid carbon dioxide to be injected into oil fields for what is called Enhanced Oil Recovery (EOR).
Carelle said that may now be the most important development in the opposition to the pipeline on June 2.
“The Tribal group is requesting an environmental impact study, finally. And that could stop them,” she said.
Carelle also said there are two pipelines currently looking for permits, but she said IUB officials said there are three more requests coming to the board in the near future.
“Three more are coming. That’s the faulty statute that says you can shift property rights to private investors. That’s what’s happening,” she said.
Sartitia, Mississippi Rupture
In a report from HuffPost, Yazoo County Emergency Management Agency Director Jack Willingham, who directed the emergency response effort, was quoted as saying, “We got lucky. If the wind blew the other way, if it’d been later when people were sleeping, we would have had deaths.”
Carbon dioxide is an asphyxiant that displaces ambient oxygen, making it more difficult to breathe. The World Health Organization said the Satartia rupture amounted to the first known instance of an outdoor mass exposure to piped CO2 gas anywhere in the world.
The gas plume from Sartitia was described as a green cloud that smelled of rotten eggs. Ted Stein said pure CO2 is odorless and colorless. An investigator with the WHO said the green color indicated the CO2 was contaminated with hydrogen sulfide, a deadly gas that likely worsened the residents’ symptoms.
Ted Stein said he wants documentation and proof that the other 5% of the CO2 that hasn’t been identified yet doesn’t include hydrogen sulfide.
The HuffPost article also stated that several vehicles entering the area to evacuate residents were choked off due to the oxygen displacement.
A notice filed Wednesday indicates another meeting will be held in Lee County at the Lee County Fairgrounds Youth Center on Thursday, Sept. 15 beginning at noon. Notices of the meeting are only being sent to owners of parcels impacted by changes to the proposed pipeline route.
The notice sent by Samantha Norris of BrownWinick Law out of Des Moines, representing Navigator, indicated that “several additional facilities have elected to participate in the project; this additional interest, as well as information gleaned from initial surveys, has resulted in changes and additions to the project route”.