The Iowa Standard talked with some area land owners and farmers who are being impacted by the proposed CO2 pipeline projects in Iowa. We are not using names for obvious reasons. But they wanted to voice their concerns publicly in hopes someone, somewhere who has some ability to stop the project actually listens to them.
“When somebody told me about it I thought it sounded like something out of a science fiction movie or something,” said one of the individuals. “I couldn’t believe it — they were going to take carbon dioxide from a smokestack and compress it and turn it into a liquid and pipe it thousands of miles and then pipe it underground — I just thought it sounded really crazy. Why would they do that?
“Then I found out Gov. Kim Reynolds was doing this carbon sequestration task force and I started reading about it and learning more about it and then I realized it was true.”
Another individual said they do not believe the project would even be discussed but for tax credits.
“This all is a dumb idea,” they said. “This whole project — Summit and Navigator cross each other 12 times up in Northern Iowa and taxpayer dollars are paying for the whole works. Common sense goes a long way and this pipeline just makes absolutely no sense. That’s why farmers aren’t on board.”
A number of property owners have been upset with surveyors going onto private property. Sometimes they show up unannounced.
“A lot of people are very upset about surveyors coming up and they tell them they’re not interested in signing any easements or anything,” they said. “Normally they should just go away. But they’ll keep coming back again and again to negotiate and make offers. They’re kind of badgering people a little bit to try to pressure them into signing.”
The landowners believe if someone says no, then they should be left alone for a while. But instead continued efforts are made.
“We know an elderly lady who is being called five times a day by land agents trying to convince her to sign things,” they said. “They sent a packet of material and a contract in the mail trying to convince her with the sign here tabs. They’re using high-pressure tactics just to try to get easements. It’s just the way they do business.”
The woman is in her late-80s. Her son is concerned she will sign an easement even though he made it clear to a surveyor that they do not want the pipeline.
Because it’s a private, for-profit company and venture, they believe 100 percent of landowners should have to sign up for the project.
“If they can’t pay the landowners what they want, they can run that pipeline somewhere else,” they said. “I don’t think there should be a threshold for a private, for-profit venture.”
If the project were a road or a highway or something for public use, they said they’d understand.
“But this isn’t,” they said.
A large concern among property owners who do not want the pipeline project going through their land is transparency.
“They’re not being transparent, they’re not trying to be helpful, they’re not working with the landowners,” they said. “They say they’re negotiating and they’re trying to be as helpful as they can, but they’re not.”
Unfortunately for the landowners, their concerns with legislators and Gov. Reynolds have fallen on deaf ears.
“Kim Reynolds has been MIA,” said one of the landowners. “She won’t meet with us. She won’t meet with landowners. She won’t discuss it. She’s had a carbon sequestration task force where she invited all pipeline insiders to this task force. She’s invited her recipients of Bruce Rastetter’s big donor list — so they’ve had their nice little task force meetings. But when it comes to meeting with landowners — we’ve asked numerous times to meet with her — nope, she’s missing in action. Her schedule is full. That’s the response we get.
“We hear it every day from landowners and farmers. They’re mad. They’re very upset. We hear it every day that they’re not voting for her. She’s going to have to make a decision — either she’s going to stand up for her constituents and property rights or she’s going to stand up for Bruce Rastetter and her big-money donors. So she’s got to make a choice.”
Another landowner said when looking at the list on Open Secrets of legislators who have gotten donations from Rastetter, “it’s quite an impressive list.”
“I give the guy credit, he spreads his money around to a lot of legislators,” they said.
The overwhelming majority of counties affected by the project have filed complaints with the Iowa Utilities Board.
“I think it’s up to 42 now out of 56 counties that are affected,” one of the landowners said. “Here’s what I’d like to see just in the interim, I’d like to see a moratorium put on this for now. They can’t talk to landowners, they can’t ask for voluntary easements from landowners. Just put a moratorium on it because until that goes through the court system with that land owner list.”
There is also a concern over a request made by the Iowa Utilities Board regarding a risk assessment regarding the project, but there seems to be a fight brewing over that.
“If they can’t do what the IUB says and they can’t respond to that, I think there ought to be a moratorium put on this,” they said. “Why are we in such a hurry to get this done. Let’s get these plans done soon and let this other deal go through the court system. That would be a win-win for everybody.”
Right now the landowners are looking for any sign that legislators are hearing their concerns.
“The legislators should at least speak out and address it,” they said. “Most of the landowners are upset because the legislators don’t seem to be paying attention. But they need to, you know, take a side I guess. If they want to come out for a threshold for eminent domain, anything that they say will show they’re paying attention to it. That would be a help.”
One of the landowners said the project is the first thing they think about when they get up in the morning and the last thing they think about at night.
“It consumes a lot of my day,” they said. “This is our livelihood. Farming is our way of life and our land is our biggest capital investment we have. So when you start messing with a person’s business or livelihood, it really upsets a lot of people. It really upsets farmers because this is our way of life. It wears on a person. It makes you mad. That’s why there is a lot of anger right now towards Gov. Reynolds. We hear it from people every day — they’re very upset with her.”
We asked about the people who are upset with Reynolds — if they are people who would typically be upset with the Republican Governor or if they are typical supporters.
“Some of them are lifelong Republicans,” they said. “I just talked with somebody this morning — a 91-year-old lady who has been a Republican her entire life. She’s had fundraisers for the Republican Party. She’s so upset she’s not going to vote for Kim Reynolds. These are people who have been Republicans for years.”
At the end of the day, for these landowners and others like them, it comes down to private property rights.
“Property rights should be the most fundamental right a person can have,” they said. “Our legislators are not sticking up for property rights and this is really what kind of floors me. I’m a little bit surprised they’re more concerned about their big-money donors than they are about the people that they represent.”
They are hopeful to get answers before the election so they know who to vote for.
“If we’re not going to get answers, that pretty much tells us our answer in terms of who we’re going to vote for — or not vote for,” they said. “It would be hard to have everything resolved before the election, but they should at least be talking about it.”