Passion, principals, and pride postpone pipeline


America is a crooked road, man.

From our seat as a local news publisher, it’s been extremely interesting talking to people over the past several years about where this crooked road is headed. But some of the real cerebral analysis comes when capitalism bangs into freedom.

This week we got the news that Navigator is halting, albeit temporarily they say, activities to build a $3 billion pipeline through the Midwest, specifically through Lee County.

For those sleeping under rocks, and there’s more of you than we care to admit, Navigator sold the government on building a carbon dioxide sequestration pipeline from the Dakotas through the upper Midwest. The 1,300-mile pipeline would run across the state of Iowa, parts of South Dakota, Minnesota, and Nebraska, ending with storage in central Illinois and connecting with about 20 ethanol producers and fertilizer processors along the way.

Now we’ve have pipelines in Lee County, just ask the sheriff’s department. When Dakota Access built the big pipeline, we had protestors on the front end and the back side of that permitting process. But the Navigator pipeline hit a different kind of opposition.

Property owners were maybe dazzled a bit by the money Dakota Access was willing to pay for the right to tear up southeast Iowa farmland, and even pay for a few years of the ensuing crop hinderance.

But this carbon dioxide pipeline was a different kind of beast and more than half the property owners that were being contacted for easements to build the pipeline, said, ‘No way’, ‘Not here’, … ‘never’.

They are fed up with companies coming onto their land, tearing it up, and professing to put it back together. They were fed up with companies saying they are doing things for the public good, which is requirement for eminent domain proceedings, when in fact the efforts were centered on profits - many of which would be wired outside the country.

People like Ted and Carrelle Stein who invited us out for a glass of tea to talk just about what threats this pipeline brought to Lee County. Ted Stein is an engineer and his wife is a former attorney. They traveled the Midwest doing some heavy lifting to stop this pipeline. They didn’t yell and scream, they were informed and carried armloads of paperwork about the unconstitutionality of the eminent domain process, but also the safety of a carbon sequestration pipeline.

If you don’t know of Sartatia, Miss., Google that. This pipeline that would carry the same contents, the similar pressure, similar danger, is planned to be built 1,000 feet from a senior living center in West Point.

People spoke. People stood up against a very large multi-national corporation, with pockets as deep as any, and said ‘enough’. They sniffed out misdirection. They demanded politicians consider the rights of one over the profits of many. And for the time being anyway – they put a stop to it.

What that looks like six months - twelve months from now, two years from now - we don’t know. We know money will have its say, it always, always does. But in this instance, we again learned that the citizenry will have its say, too.

As Supervisor Garry Seyb likes to say, “the voices are being heard” and this time it isn’t lip service.

I sat in meetings where Doug Abolt railed against the lack of constitutional congruency in what Navigator was doing – what other companies have done. Saying it's time to stop taking from private property owners.

Don Hunold pushing legislators to stop taking treasured generational farmland, farmland that we’re learning very recently is slowly losing its perennial and phenomenal power to produce in this state.

Legendary Iowa football coach Hayden Fry slapped America Needs Farmers on his beloved Hawkeyes. The move proved endearing, and probably a little profitable if we’re being upfront, for the program. But he wasn’t wrong. These property owners that were in danger once again of having property taken from them under what many claim are false pretenses, said enough is enough.

We still don’t really know the value of what the pipeline was marketed to do. Pull carbon dioxide from being released into the environment, which makes environmental advocates happy on the face. Supervisor Charles Holmes said the impact from that pipeline would be minimal at best and reminded us that the atmosphere needs carbon dioxide to an extent.

What will not be forgotten, especially if this postponement becomes permanent, is that a cobbled collaboration across states by pipeline opponents worked.

I remember one fertilizer advocate at an IUB hearing say if this pipeline is stopped, it will probably mean the end of pipelines through the Midwest. That remains to be seen. And it will be dependent on how people are treated, how our treasured farms are respected, and if true leadership prevails.

Either way, for this moment in time, the people prevailed. Profit is integral to the American economic system. We have to have it. We have to have that stratification to create workforce, and a tax base, a healthy gross domestic product. We want jobs and industry to solidify our existence, but every once in a while logic has to have its day and it seems, for the time being anyway, the system worked.

While we’re talking systems working, your Fort Madison Bloodhounds punched one of the best football teams in the state in the mouth Friday night for one quarter. It would appear that just woke up a beast in the Williamsburg Raiders, but for one guy in shorts on a sideline, it shows the direction of this program. That system is working, too – But that’s Beside the Point.

Chuck Vandenberg is editor and co-owner of Pen City Current and can be reached at

Navigator Heartland Greenway, pipeline, postponed, permits, activities, opinion, editorial, Beside the Point, Chuck Vandenberg, Sunday, Pen City Current


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