Iowa's carbon pipeline race meets growing opposition
Resistance is growing to proposals for multi-billion-dollar networks of underground pipelines that would cross Iowa and capture carbon dioxide from ethanol or fertilizer plants.
Why it matters: While the proposals claim the projects would greatly reduce greenhouse emissions, they're raising controversy among environmentalists and community leaders.
- Groups like the Sierra Club claim the Iowa proposals are “false climate solutions” that “take us farther away from climate goals.”
- And others argue the projects don’t benefit their communities.
What's happening: At least four counties have announced opposition to the use of eminent domain to seize property for the proposed pipeline projects.
- Meanwhile, a "pro-landowner" Republican lawmaker is drafting legislation to limit when the companies could use eminent domain.
State of play: Last week, Wolf Carbon Solutions became the third company to announce an Iowa pipeline proposal. It would connect facilities in Cedar Rapids and Clinton to a sequestration site in Decatur, Illinois.
- Summit Carbon Solutions' proposal includes portions of Story County, while Navigator CO2 Ventures' would cross Polk's northeast corner.
Context: In 2018, Congress expanded a federal tax credit to incentivize investments in carbon capture.
- President Joe Biden's Build Back Better bill has proposed billions of dollars to expand the credit even further, though talks over the plan have recently stalled.
What they're saying: Eminent domain should be limited to projects that serve the entire public rather than to the exclusive benefit of private companies, Linn County supervisors said in a letter to the Iowa Utilities Board (IUB) last week.
- Long-term land value losses are also a worry, the supervisors said.
- Ethanol plants and the pipelines could soon become obsolete as electric vehicles replace gasoline engines, a former member of the Iowa Environmental Protection Commission recently warned in a Des Moines Register op-ed.
The other side: Gasoline or flex-fuel vehicles are projected to retain the majority of the market through at least 2050, Navigator spokesperson Elizabeth Burns-Thompson told Axios last week, citing a 2021 projection from the U.S. Energy Information Administration.
- Landowners will be fully compensated for easements and all future expenses. That includes a 240% reimbursement for yield losses, said Burns-Thompson, who's also an Altoona City Council member.
What's next: The IUB is holding a virtual information meeting about Navigator's project tonight at 6pm. Registration is required.
- The project has months of permitting and negotiations ahead, but construction could potentially begin in early 2024.
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