Iowa landowner and carbon pipeline developer battle over property access

Oil, steam and natural gas pipelines run through the forest at the Cenovus Foster Creek SAGD oil sands operations near Cold Lake, Alberta. REUTERS/Todd Korol

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  • Developer of Heartland Greenway pipeline says Iowa law promises access to land during planning phases
  • Landowner says the access law is a giveaway to corporations

(Reuters) – An Iowa landowner is countersuing a carbon pipeline developer after it sued him and other residents to gain access to their properties for surveying. The family says the Iowa law that allows access to private property for the purposes of energy development amounts to an illegal taking and wants an injunction barring the company from entering.
Navigator CO2 Ventures, a partnership between Valero Energy Corp and BlackRock, is proposing the Heartland Greenway, a 1,300-mile network of pipelines that would connect biofuel producers in the Midwest to an underground storage facility in central Illinois where an expected 15 million metric tons of carbon dioxide could be sequestered each year, according to the company.

The bulk of the pipeline system would cross Iowa, where the company is drafting a detailed route proposal as required by the Iowa Utilities Board before approvals are granted. As a part of that scoping, Navigator has sought to use an Iowa statute that allows hazardous liquid pipeline and storage companies to survey and examine private property provided the landowners are given 10 days’ written notice and after an informational meeting.
Navigator sued Martin Koenig and three other landowners in August saying they had violated the statute by refusing the company access to their land.

The pipeline would facilitate carbon capture and storage (CCS), a process that has been touted by industry and some government officials as a way to help the biofuel industry reduce emissions amid calls to transition towards clean energy.

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Heartland Greenway is one of three carbon pipeline systems proposed for the state that have received pushback from landowners and conservation groups that say CCS is a largely untested technology, and that the pressurized pipelines that transport liquefied CO2 present health dangers for nearby communities. The pipelines need multiple state and federal approvals, and some Iowa lawmakers have expressed concerns about extending eminent domain rights to the projects.
“This fight is for the fair treatment of landowners,” said Brian Jorde, an attorney at Domina Law Group who represents Koenig and other landowners fighting Navigator’s pipeline.
Navigator did not immediately reply to a request for comment.

The case is Navigator Heartland Greenway v. Martin P. Koenig, Iowa District Court for Clay County, case No. EQCV034863.

For Navigator: Brian Rickert, James Pray, Caitlin Stachon, Thomas Story and Jackson O’Brien of Brown Winick Graves Gross and Baskerville

For the landowner: Brian Jorde and Christian Williams of Domina Law Group

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Margarete Mote