DES MOINES — A group of landowners, lawmakers and environmentalists are speaking out after the Iowa Utilities Board announced it would move the hearing on the proposed Summit Carbon Solutions pipeline from October to August.
Anna Ryon, a former attorney with the Iowa Office of Consumer Advocate, says the landowner testimony was moved to first in the hearing along with the change in the date. “So normally, that landowner participation comes at the end of hearing, when the company has already had to make its case, by putting it first. It really limits the amount of time that landowners have to prepare,” Ryon says.
Ryon spoke during a conference call hosted by the Sierra Club, and says the new schedule puts the issue on the fast track, and will make it tough for landowners to find the help they need. “If they want to have an attorney, they now have two months to find any attorney and finding an attorney in Iowa, who can take on this nature of the case in two months who isn’t already representing a party in this case, is nearly impossible,” she says.
Ryon says landowners are forced to sort of defend their land against eminent domain before actually hearing the pipeline company’s case. “So there are going to be a lot of facts missing. Landowners won’t have the full facts from the hearing in order to really understand what the impact of the pipeline could be on their land when they’re expected to go up and describe to the board what that impact will be,” Ryon says.
State Representative Helena Hayes, a Republican from Mahaska County, says the House did pass a bill 73-20 that did several things, including requiring 90% voluntary easements before the IUB could grant the eminent domain for pipelines.
“The interesting thing about this particular bill, when it came to carbon pipelines is that it was very bipartisan, and I’m very well aware that even some of those who did not vote in favor of this particular bill are not in favor of the pipelines she says. “but they actually believe that what we did in that bill was not strong enough.” The Iowa Senate failed to pass the bill and it didn’t make it out of the session.
Hayes says lawmakers who supported the bill plan are drafting a letter to send to state regulators in response to the hearing change. “We’re going to ask them to slow down the process and give particular attention to the due process and hearing out landowners in a fair open and deliberate manner. So we will be drafting that and putting that on the docket as soon as it is ready,” Hayes says.
She says representatives in the Iowa House know there are thousands of people who have not signed on to pipeline easements and she says as a lawmaker she would love to see another session to have more conversations about it. Hayes says this issue goes beyond Iowa, and everyone should keep the big picture in mind. “Iowa stands at the forefront of this whole movement. And what we do is going to make an impact for future generations,” Hayes says. “So I encourage everybody to continue to just stay strong, because we have a lot to fight for on this.”
The Sierra Club’s Jessica Mazour says they are calling for the hearing to be delayed. She says they are concerned that with two new member on the Utilities Board, the new members are unaware of past processes and the detailed work that goes into this decision making process.
Summit Carbon Solutions issued this statement:
“Summit Carbon Solutions appreciates the Iowa Utilities Board (IUB) establishing a procedural schedule where the public comment and hearing for our project begins in August, with a final permit decision expected to be issued prior the end of the year. This will enable Summit and the farming community to coordinate planting, facilitating construction within a single crop year. To date, Summit has signed more than 2,000 easement agreements with Iowa landowners accounting for 475 miles of our proposed project route in the state. We look forward to continuing to work with Iowa landowners, plus our 13 ethanol plant partners across Iowa, to advance our project through the regulatory process and support the region’s most important industries – agriculture and ethanol. ”