Legislators weigh-in on carbon capture pipelines

Regular legislative update takes on book banning, emergency hospitals


LEE COUNTY – Several area legislators spent most of Friday’s monthly local update talking about the current status of hazardous liquid pipeline legislation.

The monthly legislative session update was held at the Lee County Economic Development Group offices in Montrose and featured State Reps. Martin Graber (R-Fort Madison), and Matt Rinker (R-Burlington) and State Sen. Jeff Reichman (R-Montrose).

Other topics included rural emergency hospital legislation and bans on books in K-12 settings.

But about 45 minutes of the hour-long session was spent on House File 565 which would require companies proposing hazardous liquid pipelines, to secure 90% of the miles needed for easements voluntarily.

Three companies - Summit Carbon Solutions, Wolf Carbon Solutions, and Navigator CO2 currently have plans in front of the Iowa Utilities Board to construct carbon sequestration pipelines in Iowa. Navigator’s Heartland Greenway pipeline would run through Lee County.

The Iowa House passed the bill Tuesday, sending it to the Senate for debate. Reichman said the bill may have trouble in the senate.

“I wish these people would run these pipelines down the middle of the highways and then we wouldn’t have these issues,” Reichman said.

“Most of these pipelines are for private use and people don’t like it. As much as they’re paying, I wish they’d come down to my property and do a U-turn because I have the property to support it.”

Reichman said changing the rules now could open to the state to lawsuits due to the investment already made on the project, as well as payments already made to farmers.

“If they change the rules now, a lot of those landowners have had checks that have been paid out, cashed, and spent. If this does get shut down, I would assume the landowners would have to pay that back, and I don’t think the state of Iowa could handle the lawsuits of the hundreds of millions of dollars that have already been invested in the project,” he said.

“When we were kids and were down on the corner playing kickball or whatever and someone tried to change the rules, if we didn’t like it much, we went home. So, we’ll see what happens.”

Doug Abolt, a property owner in the county, said he’s had many farmers have concerns about the pipeline and asked if the legislators would vote for the bill as it stands.

Graber and Rinker have already voted for the bill that passed out of the House.

Abolt asked where the legislators stood on eminent domain and where they stood on protecting Iowa from outside sources.

“When will we tell the feds to go pound sand on this stuff?” Abolt asked.

“The problem is eminent domain has no use for people’s private property and that’s a freedom we're flushing here.”

He said people should be able to do whatever they want with their property and if they want to option to pipelines they should be able to do so.

“But if somebody doesn’t, I think we should protect them to the “n”th degree,” he said.

Rinker said the House tried to work with everyone involved to make it the most effective legislation to protect landowners.

“We would love to eliminate the whole project because of the science of it, but that’s not what the bill is about,” he said.

“If we constrict the ability of eminent domain, then we find ourselves potentially going against a Supreme Court ruling that puts us in a position that it could get challenged.”

Rinker said he’s heard of farmers getting checks as high as half of a million dollars.

“If the federal government is going to invest billions of dollars in this technology – because they are – I would much rather have them writing checks to Iowans,” Rinker said.

“That’s the only glass half full scenario I can peel out of it.”

Andy Bates, a spokesperson for Navigator, said the company is working in good faith with county residents. He added that Iowa laws are already some of the most comprehensive in this part of the country and new legislation would stand in the way of development of safe carbon sequestration.

"We are committed to working collaboratively with landowners and negotiating in good-faith to secure as much of the project footprint in a voluntary fashion as possible," he said.

"The current process outlined by Iowa law is one of the most comprehensive that exists across the Midwest in terms of landowner protections, and we don’t believe that changes are needed. Iowa’s ability to manage carbon in a constructive and safe manner will look like the development of pipelines, and this legislation stands in the way of that. "

Graber said 90% of the miles of easement have to be under control of the pipeline company voluntarily. The bill refers to mileage and not a percentage of property owners.

“Personally I think, ‘Hey, it’s my farm and if you want to come across it, you and I have to make a deal.” Graber said.

He said 90% was about as good as the House was going to do and he said the Iowa Farm Bureau was on board with that figure. Graber said the bill also addresses some of the harassment that state officials are hearing is going on with obtaining easements.

Reichman said he’s happy about the Rural Emergency Hospital bill, a bill he sponsored in the Senate.

“Rural Emergency Hospitals, we’re very excited about that. I was a sponsor on that. We don’t have the checkbook obviously to go down there and open the doors, but we’ve created a vehicle so that someone can now go in there in Keokuk and open doors in some manner.”

The bill specifically allows state licensure for emergency hospitals, where patients can be triaged and stabilized and then moved to a full hospital.

“The model for healthcare now is not to have overnight stays. I think they had about 2% bed utilization (in Keokuk). When I was a kid, I used to deliver papers out there and most of those rooms were full. That’s just not the model for healthcare anymore,” Reichman said.

“For good or bad, most people don’t spend the night anymore. It’s just a shift and it doesn’t make sense to have the fixed costs of all those rooms out there unoccupied.”

All three had similar opinions on banning sexually explicit books in K-12 settings saying that Iowa schools have to get back their reputation as the best in the country and those types of books don’t fit that agenda. 

Reichman said he offered to take the pictures from one of the books to a local newspaper and, if they printed the pictures, he would change his vote.

Fort Madison Superintendent Dr. Erin Slater said the public schools already have systems in place to address parents' concerns over potentially illicit material.

But Graber said that 36 of the books on a list he’s seen are currently in the Keokuk school system.

“So to say there isn’t any of this in Lee County, is just false.” he said.

Lee County, Navigator Heartland Greenway, pipelines, Navigator, legislators, Martin Graber, Matt Rinker, Jeff Reichman, Pen City Current, news, updates, legislative.


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