GOP leaders in deep red Iowa county object to CO2 pipelines

"I did not see this coming," tweeted Carolyn Raffensperger, an environmental lawyer and the executive director of the Science & Environmental Health Network. She was referring to the Hancock County Republican Central Committee asking the Iowa Utilities Board to reject proposed carbon dioxide pipelines.

Republican-controlled boards of supervisors in dozens of Iowa counties (including Hancock) have formally objected to CO2 pipeline plans in their jurisdictions. But the December 19 letter, which the utilities board published on December 29, appears to be the first time a county GOP organization has weighed in.

Republican candidates routinely receive more than 70 percent of the vote in this part of north central Iowa, and Democrats have not fielded candidates lately for most Hancock County offices.

The Hancock GOP committee argued against the pipelines on four grounds. Although only one company (Summit Carbon Solutions) has proposed a route crossing Hancock County, the signers asked the board to file their objections to all CO2 pipelines.

THREATS TO PROPERTY RIGHTS, SAFETY, SOIL

First, the Hancock Republicans oppose using the government's eminent domain power to take private property.

The proposed CO2 pipeline is not a government project. It is a private company trying to install this privately owned pipeline through our county. Will it benefit the general public of our county or for that matter any Iowa county? The answer is no. It will only benefit the bank accounts of a few individuals.

Second, the letter expressed concern about a strain on local emergency services, which already face staffing shortages.

With the increased burden of the additional hazardous material training that will be required, recruiting and retaining volunteer personnel will be difficult. [...] Are these private companies willing to pay the cost of fulltime staff to meet the needs? Are they willing to pay for all the necessary equipment needed to protect the volunteers in the event of a leak? We highly doubt it.

That section of the letter also noted the "extreme risk" associated with a pressurized gas that could kill people if a pipeline ruptured, as happened in Satartia, Mississippi in February 2020.

Third, the GOP committee claimed carbon dioxide is "already in short supply" for some uses in daily life, such as carbonating beverages. Transporting the gas to an underground cavern in another state "will only further fuel inflation," which many people cannot afford. It would make more sense for "ethanol facilities to capture their CO2 and convert it to other marketable products onsite."

Finally, the Hancock Republicans argued that pipeline construction would pose a threat to drainage tile used to farm highly productive soils. "A tile collapse of one of these county tile lines could affect several other neighboring farms," causing landowners who received no compensation from Summit to lose crops. (Research has shown corn and soybean yields declined in areas affected by oil pipeline construction.)

The three Republicans on the Hancock Board of Supervisors raised similar points in their December 2021 filing with the Iowa Utilities Board, urging that the board deny Summit Carbon Solutions a pipeline permit. That letter cited possible damage to the county's 140 drainage districts, challenges for local emergency management groups, the use of eminent domain to benefit a private company, as well as the "gross lack of communication" between Summit and the Hancock supervisors regarding this project.

A DIFFICULT ISSUE FOR IOWA GOP POLITICIANS

Two months ago, Iowa House Speaker Pat Grassley observed in his own letter the Iowa Utilities Board, "In my sixteen years in the Iowa House, I have never heard more concerns from constituents related to a single issue than the CO2 pipeline project currently proposed for our area." Grassley was writing about a waiver request from Navigator, which has proposed a pipeline crossing Butler County.

Summit's project presents a much bigger political problem for the Republican establishment. The firm is part of a corporate group associated with Bruce Rastetter, among the largest individual donors to Iowa Republican candidates (including legislative leaders) over the past fifteen years.

Rastetter regularly communicates with Governor Kim Reynolds, who named a top Summit executive to the carbon sequestration task force she created in 2021. In addition, former Governor Terry Branstad (Reynolds' mentor) is a "senior policy advisor" to Summit Carbon Solutions.

Here's the route map Summit filed with the Iowa Utilities Board in January 2022. I added the red oval to indicate Hancock County's location.

Normally, Iowa GOP politicians would not oppose what a powerful donor wants—especially since biofuels interests and some agricultural sector lobby groups (like the Iowa Corn Growers Association) are also all in for CO2 pipelines.

But individual farmers and Republican activists are overwhelmingly against seizing farmland for this purpose. That's one reason nearly every county board of supervisors in northwest Iowa, the reddest part of the state, has filed a formal objection to one or more CO2 pipelines.

Iowa House and Senate leaders squelched bills to regulate eminent domain during last year's legislative session. But the issue may become a hot topic at the statehouse in 2023.

  • What effect will this dispute have on IDP organizing in rural counties?

    This is really interesting. With the rise of corn-based ethanol, farmers planted corn to the fence rows. There is a whole dialogue about the environmental significance of this devotion to corn growing. The corn is distilled into ethanol, which has the full support of the governor. The term “Renewable Fuels Standard” came into my vocabulary, and Republicans have pushed for legislation for a greater use of ethanol in fuels based on 1) assumed displacement of coal and oil-based fuels, 2) better corn prices for farmers, and 3) a lucrative industry in distilling corn. I have read that corn-based fuels are the miracle drug as promoted. https://www.reuters.com/business/environment/us-corn-based-ethanol-worse-climate-than-gasoline-study-finds-2022-02-14/ Which may mean there is a boom/bust timeline. The individual farmers have used the power of their local agencies and (Hancock) County RC to resist “planting” a CO2-disposing system across their land and county. I’m sure the distillers have an argument for the necessity of pipelines. As said, this dispute is very interesting. Will it provide leverage for IDP organizers to rebuild party structures in rural counties?

  • Correction

    I have read that corn-based fuels are NOT the miracle drug as promoted. https://www.reuters.com/business/environment/us-corn-based-ethanol-worse-climate-than-gasoline-study-finds-2022-02-14/

  • Thanks, Obama...

    Less than two years into a Biden term, and what do we have?

    Infiltration of God fearing local government offices by tree hugging communist antifa woke mobs, threatening the peace and prosperity of our beloved Governor and her BFFs.

    I'd have never dreamed it would come to this, despite all the warnings from Tucker Carlson. I should have listened to him.

    Thank goodness she'll soon have her own Attorney General to investigate.

  • GOP Response to Pipelines

    This is *NOT* going to be a "difficult issue" for the Iowa GOP. They will side with big business, as they have for the better part of a century. Yes, lots of small farmers and rural residents will get hurt.
    But how is that different from CAFOs? Or Medicaid expansion? Or vertical integration in agriculture? Or an increased minimum wage? Or fair tax policy? Or any other of the thousands of issues where they have chosen big business over little people?
    The GOP conveniently kicked this topic back past the election. Now they will give big business exactly what they want.

Login or Join to comment and post.