Pipeline company is suing a second Iowa county over local ordinances

A company hoping to build a carbon dioxide pipeline through Iowa is suing a second Iowa county over local efforts to regulate the controversial pipeline’s placement.

Summit Carbon Solutions, which hopes to build a pipeline to transport carbon dioxide across Iowa, sued Story County in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Iowa earlier this week. On Wednesday, Summit filed a similar lawsuit against Shelby County.

Both lawsuits allege that the locally elected county regulators are attempting to impose site requirements on the project that are solely the purview of federal regulators.

Summit is developing an interstate pipeline that, when completed, will transport carbon dioxide from more than 30 plants — primarily ethanol plants, but also fertilizer plants — through South Dakota, North Dakota, Nebraska, Minnesota and Iowa through a 1,900-mile underground network of pipes.

In Iowa, the project would likely involve 680 miles of pipeline through 30 counties.

Summit is now in the process of surveying routes for the project and obtaining the necessary permits while negotiating with landowners for access to their properties.

The Company has been working with the Iowa Utilities Board as part of the planning and permitting process for more than a year and has received voluntary easements on nearly 60% of the proposed route in Iowa.

The two lawsuits allege that the federal government regulates the safety of pipelines like the one proposed by Summit and that the Iowa Utilities Board has the legal authority to issue route permits.

On Oct. 25, the Story County Board of Directors passed an ordinance establishing backflow and other requirements for hazardous materials pipelines in the county in the interest of “public safety.”

Two weeks ago, the Shelby County Board of Supervisors unanimously approved an ordinance that would require Summit and other pipeline companies to obtain county building permits and limit each pipeline’s proximity to homes, schools and farms.

The ordinance says their intention is to establish a permitting process that imposes “conditions and safeguards on the use of land in the county for hazardous liquid pipeline purposes.” The regulation states that it is “to ensure safety from fire, flood, panic and other hazards” that could arise from the pipeline.

Both of Summit’s lawsuits seek a court order declaring that the local ordinances, pre-empted by the Pipeline Safety Act, are invalid and unenforceable, at least as they relate to Summit’s proposed pipeline.

A plaintiff in both lawsuits is William Couser, a Story County farmer who owns a 5,200-head forage property along the route of the Summit Pipeline. Couser is a co-founder of Lincolnway Energy, which operates its ethanol production facility in Story County.