Pipeline permit hearing will be held during harvest
The initial weeks of a permit hearing for Summit Carbon Solutions’ proposed carbon dioxide pipeline will take place during this fall’s harvest, despite the objections of farmers who want to attend.
“These are the days and times,” said Geri Huser, chairperson of the three-member Iowa Utilities Board, which will decide whether to approve Summit’s permit. “If any changes occur to these three weeks, it will be to remove a day due to board conflicts, not party conflicts.”
The board held a meeting Wednesday to help solidify the procedural timeline for Summit’s request to construct about 680 miles of pipe in northern and western Iowa. The project would connect to ethanol plants to transport their captured carbon dioxide for underground sequestration in North Dakota.
It is one of three such proposals in the state and is furthest along in the regulatory process.
An order from the board is forthcoming for the schedule, but Huser said a weekslong evidentiary hearing will start Oct. 23 in Webster County.
That hearing is tentatively set to conclude in December but could spill into next year. It will include parcel-by-parcel discussions about the company’s eminent domain requests.
The hearing would be preceded by four public comment hearings in outlying counties starting in mid-September and four days of public comment hearings in Webster County the week before the evidentiary hearing starts.
“This is not workable,” said Dean Kluss, chairperson of the Wright County Board of Supervisors.
Kluss said he is a farmer who starts harvesting crops about Sept. 20 and doesn’t finish until the middle of November.
In the past five years, corn harvest in Iowa has begun mid-September and was 90% complete by mid-November, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Harvest of that crop is usually most active in October, but in cooler years that can be delayed to November because it takes longer for corn to mature.
IUB staff had first proposed holding the evidentiary hearing in May 2024, but two of the three board members decided to start in October, according to IUB records.
“I am concerned that the process is being expedited without valid reason, which increases the chance of mistakes,” wrote Josh Byrnes, a board member, in opposition to a February board order to hold the hearing starting in October. “The parties deserve a meticulous and careful analysis of this petition. It takes time to complete a thorough and comprehensive review of infrastructure projects, and the procedural schedule should reflect this.”
Huser and board member Richard Lozier overruled Byrnes. Their order did not include a rationale for the start date.
“If we end up having a cool year, harvest could go into November, which would overlap harvest and the proposed hearing even more, further straining farmers located on the proposed route who want to, at a minimum, follow along with the hearing,” Byrnes wrote. “A hearing in October could require landowners to choose between attending this hearing or their income for the year.”
Huser said Wednesday that the hearing will be available for live viewing online but wasn’t sure whether it will be recorded for later viewing.
Pipeline opponents have broadly sought delays to the proceedings with the hope that they will lessen the pipeline’s chances of success. The project grows more costly as time passes.
“May is just delay for the sake of delay and trying to kill the project strategically,” said Bret Dublinske, a Summit attorney.
He proposed moving the hearing date to late summer to avoid harvest. The feasibility of that suggestion is unclear because of the voluminous amount of information board staff must compile before the hearing.
The board is expected to issue an order to officially set the hearing date yet this month.