Nov 14, 2022 - News

Iowa counties launch pipeline study

A photo of pipes.

Pipes stacked at a South Dakota site in 2015 for the Dakota Access oil pipeline, which crossed portions of Iowa. Photo: Nati Harnik/AP

The Iowa State Association of Counties (ISAC) launched a soil conservation study in October that could delay pipeline construction projects if ground conditions are unsuitable for heavy machinery, director Bill Peterson told Axios.

Why it matters: Some of the world's best soil is in Iowa.

  • There's growing concern that roughly 2,000 miles of proposed pipeline projects in Iowa could devastate crop production, Peterson said.

Driving the news: The study launched Oct. 15 and is being overseen by Mehari Tekeste, an assistant agriculture professor at Iowa State University who has prior pipeline research.

  • ISAC is asking each of Iowa's 99 counties to voluntarily contribute $600 to pay for the research.

Of note: Teskeste last year published research funded by Dakota Access Pipeline, showing Iowa's soil in the right-of-way of that project is still recovering six years after a nearly 1,200-mile oil pipeline was constructed.

Zoom in: Three companies have proposed to build underground pipeline networks to carry carbon dioxide from ethanol and fertilizer facilities to sequestration sites.

  • Project advocates say the plans would reduce greenhouse gas emissions but some environmentalists and land owners object, saying the benefits are false or exaggerated and intrude on property rights.

State of play: The proposals are pending before the Iowa Utilities Board (IUB).

  • The companies are negotiating easements with property owners but a legal process known as eminent domain could be used in situations where voluntary agreements aren’t made.

Details: The study will focus on the effects of pipeline construction to farmland and potentially offer recommendations to help avoid long term reduction to crop production, Peterson said.

  • The IUB and individual counties could use the study's findings to limit construction during wet conditions, he said.

What's happening: Polk County Supervisors agreed this month to help pay for the study via ISAC's request.

  • Polk officials have discussed but not yet adopted opposition to a proposal from Navigator CO2 Ventures, which would include a pipeline in northern Polk County.

What they're saying: Navigator has commissioned its own soil compaction study, company spokesperson Elizabeth Burns-Thompson told Axios last week.

  • The company will work with counties and property owners to restore soil conditions and encourages the scientific review, she said.

What's next: Navigator plans to complete a permitting process with the IUB by the end of next year with construction launching in 2024.

  • Easement negotiations with landowners is ongoing, Burns-Thompson said.
A photo of a pipeline.
Keokuk County farmer Steve Roquet says this picture shows how some of the most fertile topsoil in his field was in 2016 buried feet underground as part of the Dakota Access Pipeline. Photo courtesy of Steve Roquet

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