Sep 21, 2021 - News
Conflict of interest? Critics question $4.5B Iowa pipeline proposal
A map showing the locations of more than 30 ethanol plants where carbon dioxide would be captured.
Carbon dioxide would be captured from more than 30 ethanol plan facilities via a pipeline across five Midwest states. Screen grab from Summit Carbon Solutions informational video

Former Iowa Gov. Terry Branstad is at the center of critics' concerns about a proposed $4.5 billion pipeline project to capture carbon emissions across the state.

  • Opponents of the pipeline are raising questions at recent public meetings about Branstad's advisory role in the project, and whether his appointees to the board tasked with approving it have a conflict of interest, the Des Moines Register reports.

Why it matters: The Midwest Carbon Express project would cross 30 Iowa counties and be classified as a hazardous liquid pipeline.

  • Branstad appointed two of the three members on the Iowa Utilities Board (IUB), which can approve eminent domain powers to force unwilling landowners to sell easements.

The big picture: Summit Carbon Solutions, the Ames company behind the project, isn't alone in proposing to build hundreds of miles of pipeline to capture carbon at ethanol refineries across the Midwest. Texas-based Navigator CO2 Ventures is trying to advance a similar proposal.

  • Under Summit's plans, CO2 captured at the plants would be buried underground in North Dakota.
  • Recent increases in federal tax incentives prompted a rush for pipeline plans intended to help reduce harmful environmental emissions, the AP reports.

Between the lines: Summit Carbon Solutions hired Branstad in March as a senior policy advisor on the project.

  • Summit Carbon's parent company is owned by Bruce Rastetter, who Branstad appointed to the Iowa Board of Regents in 2011. Rastetter has remained a longtime political ally of the former governor's.

What they're saying: Ames farmer Lee Tesdell raised questions about a possible conflict of interest at a public meeting last week, saying Branstad should resign or the two IUB members should recuse themselves.

  • The board said in an emailed statement to the Register that it'll decide whether there's a possible conflict of interest "at the appropriate time."

What's next: The IUB will continue to notify landowners of Summit Carbon's proposal at public meetings scheduled through Oct. 15.

  • Summit can apply for a new pipeline permit at least 30 days after the meetings have concluded.
avatar

Get more local stories in your inbox with Axios Des Moines.

More Des Moines stories

No stories could be found

Des Moinespostcard

Get a free daily digest of the most important news in your backyard with Axios Des Moines.